Cooperation: Why DO We Sweat the Small Stuff? #PeopleSkills #LeadMorale

Why do people make cooperation difficult? As The People Skills Coach™, I hear many leaders ask, “Why can’t everyone just get along?” In these cases, the leaders aren’t referring to substantive differences of opinion.

Instead, they are frustrated by people’s unwillingness to work through differences. So, it begs the question:

Why do people make cooperation so tough?

Well I have written much about the challenges of personality type, cultural, and generational differences.  Yet, none of these differences actually stop people from working through differences. So what blocks cooperation? 

Seeing it as surrender … giving in.

Cooperation: This image is paper man with hands up.

Do You See Cooperation As Surrender? Image via

Instead of seeing it as joining in …

Cooperation: This image is paper cutouts with hands joined.

Cooperation: Is Not Surrender. Image via

Both images licensed from

Cooperation: Joining In or Giving In?

For people who see life as a competition, cooperation seems like surrender. To them, it is giving in not joining in.

In their mind there is winning and losing. There is conquer or be conquered. These all feel like failure and quite possibly, humiliation.

If you want people to work together, show them that there are more than two choices. There is …

  1. Exploring options and discovering common ground
  2. Mutual success through collaboration
  3. Listening to show respect and communicating to move forward
  4. Honor and dignity in the give and take of ideas

Cooperation: A New View

“We must reprogram ourselves to understand that cooperation is a higher principle than competition.”  ~Bryant McGill

For as long as people see cooperation as surrender and loss, they will stick to their guns. They will quibble over the littlest details as they resist being conquered. It is a struggle to feel good.

Redefine cooperation as a worthy honorable pursuit. The psyche wants to live with honor not in humiliating defeat. Give yourself and those you lead chances to experience positive cooperation in fun moments and everyday ways.

What cooperative moments have changed your view and transformed your life?

From my professional experience to your success,
Kate Nasser, The People Skills Coach™

Related Posts:
Harmony: What Does It Take to Truly Hear Each Other?
Teamwork People Skills: Are You Making It Hard?
Cooperation: Keys to Initiating Not Dominating

©2013-2019 Kate Nasser, CAS, Inc. Somerville, NJ. I appreciate your sharing the link to this post on your social streams. However, if you want to re-post or republish the content of this post, please email for permission and guidelines. Thank you for respecting intellectual capital.

Kate Nasser, The People Skills Coach™, delivers coaching, consulting, training, and keynotes on leading change, employee engagement, teamwork, and delivering the ultimate customer service. She turns interaction obstacles into interpersonal success. See this site for workshop outlines, keynote footage, and customer results.

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13 Responses to “Cooperation: Why DO We Sweat the Small Stuff? #PeopleSkills #LeadMorale”

  1. Carl says:

    Well said Kate,
    “For people who see life as a competition, cooperation seems like surrender.”

    Having team members come and say “Look what we accomplished” is the greatest satisfaction I receive – it reflects the environment and mindset I want to create.

    Best regards and an early Happy New Year

    • Kate Nasser says:

      Thank you Carl. I love your powerfully simple advice as well … “Look what we accomplished” is a great sign and definitely satisfying moment.

      Happy New Year to you as well!

  2. Jon Mertz says:


    Cooperation creates much more than single-handedness and single-mindedness. There are things we can do alone but there are so many more things we can do together. When I look back on my career, most of the major achievements I have been a part of were because of cooperation and collaboration. Things that failed, failed due to putting personal preferences above organizational purpose. In other words, the people needed to make something work decided to work against it rather than figure out a better path forward.

    Cooperation and collaboration are returning as being a better way. This is good to see.

    Thanks. Jon

    • Kate Nasser says:

      You have a special talent for expressing the philosophy with real life grit. I love your statement: “Cooperation creates much more than single-handedness and single-mindedness.”

      Your comment also reinforces (to me) that leaders must address non-teamwork actions of solo performers regardless of the non-team players’ abilities. I so often hear, “yes, I can see they don’t help others yet they do good work”.

      My response to them is, what about the possibilities not achieved? What about the negative effect on morale? The value of cooperation can’t be understated.

      I like your hopeful close … “Cooperation and collaboration are returning as being a better way.” Let that ring out in the New Year as a true call to action!

      Many thanks my friend and best wishes,

  3. Gurmeet Singh Pawar says:

    Nice post kate & quite relevant I believe. What you say is true, though it raises a question???

    What’s wrong with surrender? What’s wrong with failure? What’s wrong with not feeling good about your defeat? What’s wrong with realisation that you are not in control?

    Not making any point here, just being curious about why it is so important for us to be winners & not losers?

    • Kate Nasser says:

      Hi Gurmeet,
      Very interesting questions!!

      IMO: There is nothing wrong with failure … I learn from both success and failure. And although I don’t jump for joy at the moment of any failure, I can absolutely say that I have valued them in hindsight.

      As for surrender, I have willingly surrendered to:
      – Greater insight
      – Others’ perspectives that illuminate without abusing
      – People’s pet peeves that matter to them that don’t completely deny my core values
      – Conditions, for a time, that I truly cannot change for the better

      and the list goes on.

      I would also add, however, that I think there is too much focus on binary thinking — winning and losing. To me there is a myriad of possibilities in between and many people don’t see them.

      Great Qs and I am grateful for you posing them here!!


  4. Hi, Kate:)

    Okay, you asked for “spirited” discussion, so here goes …

    You said “For as long as people see cooperation as surrender and loss, they will stick to their guns” and I agree. However, this IS how some people define cooperation. “Why won’t you cooperate?” actually reflects “Why won’t you just agree with my obviously superior assessment and decision” or “Why won’t you let me do what I want, regardless of who it hurts” or “Why can’t you be like me or us”.

    Cooperation is fine, if all parties are in agreement about what that means and the operational definition includes equal consideration of opinions, viewpoints, and beliefs. Too often, we say “Cooperate” when we really mean “Concede”.

    I welcome all rebuttals and promise to give them equal and appropriate consideration.

    How’s that for spirited:)?


    • Kate Nasser says:

      Music to my ears John. This is exactly the underlying message of this post. People who define cooperation as “do it my way” are making cooperation unnecessarily difficult.

      I work every day with leaders and teams to help them see the value of true cooperation — and as you say “consideration of all viewpoints, opinions, beliefs, …”

      So thank you thank you for adding energy and spirit to this post!

      Warmest wishes of thanks for all your comments in 2013.


  5. Kate,
    One of the most important skills we can develop is to “find common ground” when joining with others to collaborate. It’s so easy to get stuck in your own narrative instead of being open to the creative process. Really enjoyed this post. Happy New Year! @ JudyMartin8

    • Kate Nasser says:

      Hi Judy,
      I really like your phrase “stuck in your own narrative vs. open to the creative process”. It cinches the struggle some have in cooperating and encourages them on.

      So very pleased you have joined this discussion and hope you will participate here often!

      All the best!

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