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5 signs of Silo Mentality in your organization

Estimated reading time: 2 mins

Silo Mentality – present when a division, department or function does not willingly share information, resources and support to others.  Barriers are erected between colleagues from different areas of your organization – resulting in painful growth and change across the whole of your organization. Do you see this?

Perhaps you feel it. But can’t always evidence it. That’s because it isn’t easily evidenced. But here are five signs that Silo Mentality really does exist in your workplace.

  1. Frequent use of the words “them” and “us”
  2. People say “well that’s not my/our job”
  3. You have to wait, and then chase, for information from other business units (or, other business units have to wait and chase for information from yours)
  4. A consistent breach of organizational standards within a whole business unit
  5. A lack of respect between business units

Notice that all of the above are in the ‘soft’ areas? I.e. they’re signs, not absolutes. They must be perceived, but can’t be measured (easily). Silo Mentality is a counter-culture, where there exists a culture of sabotage within the organization, but directed outwards from a business unit.

What can be done? A leader’s perspective

According to Forbes, there are five leadership actions you can take to overcome Silo Mentality. The action that resonated with me the most is “Create a Unified Vision”, as it’s this action that goes the furthest to resolving the problem. When staff across business units share the same vision, they naturally work towards a common goal, which in turn stimulates collaboration and sharing of information and resources. Yet it must start, and continue from the top. Leadership is required to break the back of the problem. I like ‘A unified leadership team will encourage trust, create empowerment, and break managers out of the “my department” mentality and into the “our organization” mentality.’ Spot on.

Silo Mentality can be turned around towards a positive outcome. In my opinion, Silo Mentality actually evidences that there exists solidarity between staff in a business unit, and that there is a sense of pride, albeit misdirected. Skin off the negativity and lack of respect, what’s left is the bones of a strong business unit.

What can be done? A worker perspective

If you don’t consider yourself a leader in your organization – or something one with influence to directly tackle Silo Mentality – then you can still make a difference. Silo Mentality is often a taboo, consigned only for discussion at the water-cooler [link to water cooler]. But it needn’t be this way. If enough people talk about it, openly, momentum will build to the point that ‘management’ will sit up and notice.

So my advice is simple: talk to your colleagues and get their views – to validate your perspective. Then, go talk to your boss and share your thoughts on the subject. Keep the conversation professional and non-accusatory, but it’s OK to share examples of where you observe Silo Mentality if you’re asked for them.

Speak to HR about it too – and be strong in your confidence that you’re not approaching them with a moan, but your motivation is genuinely geared towards positive change. Who knows, they might tell you there are actions afoot to resolve the problem. Important thing is not to keep it to yourself, and stew on it!

Picture Credit: PhotoBlog

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Simon is a creative and passionate business leader dedicated to having fun in the pursuit of high performance and personal development. He is co-founder of Applied Change, a Business Change consultancy based in the UK. Simon is also an Ambassador for Gloucestershire business. Simon is an Associate Member of the Chartered Institute of Professional Development.

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