Total Cooperation is Impossible, According to Study

cooperation impossible Don't even think about trying to get 100 percent of your co-workers on board with you on any given project. It is virtually impossible for everyone to cooperate, according to a recent Spanish study.

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That's because there are certain individuals out there who make it a policy never to cooperate; and on the rare occasions they do, it's because they think everyone else is doing it, not because they truly believe in it, according to researches at the Universidad Carlos III de Madrid.

If this shocks you, it shouldn't. Being uncooperative is in our genes. "From the evolutionary point of view it is very difficult to understand why we would help others when what interests us is helping ourselves," the study's authors note.

Still, the research showed that at least some of us are more evolved. About 5 percent always try to help their neighbors, and nearly 60 percent cooperate depending on their mood or according to how their neighbor behaves. But still, a whopping 35 percent never cooperate.

They measured this by setting up an event for which they called for volunteers, and allowed them to participate online and see what other volunteers were doing, while maintaining their own anonymity. Motives were measured and registered. Another interesting fact they found was that people were more motivated by peer activity than by financial remuneration.

So the next time you're asked to head up a companywide project, make sure your boss knows not to expect 100 percent cooperation -- and not to throw money at it, because social, rather than financial incentives, work better.

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Lisa Johnson Mandell

Lisa Johnson Mandell


Lisa Johnson Mandell is an award-winning multi-media journalist and author of Career Comeback--Repackage Yourself to Get the Job You Want.  Her work has been translated into 20 different languages, and she is a frequent expert guest and commentator on news and talk shows. She has been featured in The Wall St. Journal, on the CBS Early Show, NBC Today, CNBC, Fox Business News, Dr. Phil, and many other media outlets.  Lisa discusses her AOL pieces each week and interviews vital guests on the web TV show, This Week in Careers. Learn more on

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I grudgingly cooperate most of the time. I recognize that anything that needs the whole crew 'on board' is only to make the supervisor look and feel better and we get no recognition for our efforts.

February 15 2011 at 10:34 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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