Collegiality

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Collegiality – Attribute, Theory or Impossibility?
May 24, 2012

Executive Summary

Collegiality is both a professional attribute and a management theory. For this reason, collegiality is often misunderstood. As an attribute, collegiality is defined by the Merriam-Webster dictionary as the cooperative relationship of colleagues. Collegial relationships are those built upon respect between people (Curtin, 1995) and allow for the interchange and discussion of ideas from each member of a team (Williams, 1997). Among most professionals, acquiring and developing this characteristic assists in building many of the critical competencies of manager. Knowing how to build and strengthen collegial relationships improves teamwork, increases one self-management skills and aids in communication.

As a management theory, collegiality is based upon welcome and respected interactions and disagreements between colleagues (Hudec, 2006). The goal is to allow each person in the group or department to make a contribution to the organization. It further requires a participative decision-making process between people with equal levels of authority. This theory requires an organization to be open and supportive of different opinions and viewpoints and continued knowledge sharing. Collegiality is most commonly seen in areas of academia, medicine and law, but is rare in the world of business because while it is easy to define, it is difficult to put into practice.

Table of Contents

Collegiality – Attribute or Theory?4
Introduction4
Collegiality in the Professional Arena5
Collegiality and Academia5
Collegiality and the Medical Profession6
Collegiality and the World of Law7
Collegiality vs. Classic Management Theory8
Collegiality and Behavioral Theory8
Collegiality and Bureaucratic Theory9
Discussion10
Conclusion13
References17

Collegiality – Attribute or Theory?

Introduction

Collegiality is both a professional attribute and a management theory. While defining collegiality as a professional attribute is easy, defining it as a management theory is not. For this reason, collegiality is often misunderstood. As an attribute, collegiality is defined by the Merriam-Webster dictionary as the cooperative relationship of colleagues. Collegial relationships are those built upon respect between people (Curtin, 1995) and allow for the interchange and discussion of ideas from each member of a team (Williams, 1997). Numerous articles exist discussing the importance of collegiality in working relationships for professionals in academia, religion, law, and medicine (Weeks 1996, Gray 2008, Lazega 2001, Frank 2010). Among most professionals, acquiring and developing this characteristic is important as it assists in building many of the critical competencies of a modern manager. Knowing how to build and strengthen collegial relationships improves teamwork, increases one’s self-management skills, and aids in communication.

In contrast, there is relatively little written about collegiality as a management theory. In his article, “Collegiality: a 21st Century Answer”, Hudec (2006) writes that collegiality is practiced in communities which strive to optimize resources. At its core, collegiality is based upon welcome and respected interactions and disagreements between colleagues. Furthermore, it uses a shared decision-making process between people with equal levels of authority. It is important to note this does not mean everyone always agrees with each decision, but instead means that people have an opportunity to share opinions, ideas and information in a respected environment which then leads to better decisions. The goal of this theory is to allow each person to make an impact on the organization by continually growing and sharing knowledge. This is often easy to talk about, but harder to put into practice.

Whether an attribute or a management theory, the workplace can benefit greatly from...
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