The Silo Mentality: the Silent Killer of Productivity in the Workplace
There's many things that can slow the efficiency of a workplace, with the silo mentality being one of them. Find out how you can stop it from forming here.
The workplace has seen a significant paradigm shift in recent years. Hierarchical structures, long hours and life-long employee loyalty have fallen out of favour. The modern office indeed appears much different to what we would have seen 20 years ago – with the influx of open plan offices, collaboration, and flexible work arrangements. One ongoing threat to the benefits of workplace collaboration is what is known as the ‘silo mentality’. In this article, we’ll discuss what the silo mentality means, and how it can hinder productivity in the workplace. We’ll also provide some tips on the preventative measures you can take to stave off a silo culture from forming.
The Silo Mentality
A silo is a storage facility which holds large materials, such as missiles or grain. In this sense, a silo maintains everything inside itself, with no exposure to outside elements. When it comes to corporate culture, the silo mentality refers to managers, departments or teams within organisations that only share information amongst each other. That is, these teams opt not to share information with others in the business. A worker who possesses these attributes is known as a ‘silo’. For all the knowledge and talent they possess, what they do (or rather, not do) with it harms not only corporate culture, but the business as a whole. This type of silo may not hold missiles, but it’s extremely destructive nonetheless.
Having expert knowledge is one thing, but why is it detrimental to hoard it? We’ll explore this below.
It prevents teams from seeing the bigger picture
It’s understandable that teams within workplaces have a specific jurisdiction and should work within that. For example, those who work in the accounts team do accounting work, and those in sales take care of bringing in and retaining customers. However, there is a lot to be gained from teams having a wholistic understanding of the business, and further, seeing how different teams work to make the business function.
Phillip works in the sales team at a eCommerce startup. Phillip spends his time talking to clients on the phone who need support. He has observed that his customers find the design of the online store difficult to navigate. If Phillip shares this information with the marketing and tech teams, they can work together to improve the website and make their customers’ experience better.
It encourages competition, not collaboration
A little bit of competition is healthy, but you need to treat this with caution when it comes to the workplace. One of the key driving factors behind the Silo mentality is ego, and the need for people to feel that they are valuable to the company. However, keeping information to yourself does not improve your value to the business – it comes across as anti-cooperative. Competition between teams in the same organisation can take away from what the teams really want to be doing – competing with other businesses.
It damages morale
One of the most important aspects to running a workplace is keeping morale high. Positivity in the workplace reaps dividends in the quality of the work done and how employees relate to each other. Employees who work within a team that suffers from the Silo mentality can grow frustrated with the team and the workplace itself. Productivity amongst employees increases where there are opportunities to learn, and not barriers to sharing information and working with experts from outside their team. Employee morale is extremely important and if an employee feels valued, they’re more likely to put more care and passion into the work that they do.
How to promote a free and open work environment
1. Facilitate projects that require cross-departmental collaboration
It’s always beneficial to have members of different teams work on the same project. This is because each employee will bring their own talents and knowledge, and inevitably, share their knowledge with each other.
Phillip’s manager, Sarah, has assigned him a project to work on with Amanda, a member of the marketing team. Their project is to send a sales email which will engage customers and promote a sale they’re having on their products. Phillip will be able to provide his knowledge from directly interacting with customers. Better still, Amanda will know how to use this knowledge to market the products in the most effective way.
2. Convey a singular vision for the business
Every team within a business should be working towards a common goal – growing the business and helping promote its purpose. Here at Lawpath, everything we do is centred around making legal services more accessible. Every team understands our broader purpose, and it’s a great framework to conceptualise how what we do contributes to the bigger picture.
3. Organise activities across teams
Team bonding sessions, strategy seminars, inter-team lunches – all have the effect of promoting socialisation amongst all employees. Along with this will come the sharing of ideas and perspectives, negating the risk of employees developing tunnel vision in their approach to their work.
4. Make departmental information as accessible as possible
Every team will accumulate different information based on what they do. Depending on the software your business uses, it’s a good idea to make this information accessible amongst every team. This way, there will be no physical barriers to information being accessed from different teams. Further, your employees won’t feel deterred if there’s a piece of information they’re after that’s exclusive to another department.
5. Train your managers in cooperative work practices
Every manager has a different style of managing, but one thing they should alway encourage is cooperation. The benefit of investing in professional development education is not underrated, and will make your employees better at their jobs. Your managers should learn how to delegate tasks which let employees engage with employees outside of their team. Employees are more likely to feel unchallenged and dissatisfied if they feel confined to their team.
The silo mentality has a domino effect. That is, when one team or manager engages in silo behaviour, the others are increasingly likely to follow suit. Promoting a diverse, allied and harmonious workplace requires information to be shared and communication to be open – and this starts from the very moment you hire employees for your business.
Jackie is the Content Manager at Lawpath and manages the content team. She has a Law/Arts (Politics) degree from Macquarie University and is an admitted solicitor in the Supreme Court of NSW. She's interested in how technology can help shape the future legal landscape.