Five ways document collaboration can leave you feeling out of control

Woman at a laptop with her head in her hands

Whether you’re using modern online collaboration software or sending marked-up files via email, working with others on documents can often leave us feeling out of control.

In this short blog I’ll explore five ways collaborating on documents can heighten the stress and frustration we can feel when we aren’t in control.

The ownership conundrum

The intellectual property might belong to your employer or client, but until handed-over “work in progress” text drafts feel like they belong to you.

If you’re the technical expert or have been assigned a complicated task there is always pride in your work. People accessing, commenting on or changing your outputs before being explicitly invited can feel like trespass.

The lurker

Someone’s avatar is lurking in the top right corner. What are they doing? Are they actually just watching you type? Are they even there?

If you’ve ever had to write up notes for a meeting on a projector you know the pressure of typing correctly, but at least in that case there’s a collective responsibility for the content. With a lurker, you can feel judged or even as entertainment. That perfectly crafted sentence can take three or five redrafts to get right and they’re only seeing a snapshot. “Go away!” you want to scream.

Depending on others’ deliverables

Now we get to the other side of the equation — receiving changes from others.

There’s a gap in your own section. You can’t complete it, you’re waiting for the other section to be complete. It won’t take you long, but you’re blocked. Have they made any progress, or should you progress plan B. You only need the gist anyway…

Merging pains

You’ve planned your day. It’s going to be productive and focussed… then a bing from your email inbox. “Hi, please find my latest edits attached. Can you merge and recirculate the master draft by close of play?” ARGH!

Why did we write that?

The beautiful finalised copy. Blood, sweat and tears have been spilled (or at least one too many cups of coffee drank). Comments have all been resolved, tracked changes accepted and you can finally save as PDF.

There’s a query from a key stakeholder, “why does paragraph 5.1 say that?”

Co-founder and CEO at — helping experts to reach consensus faster.