Raghav and Shireen started working at the regional office of an IT firm around three years ago. They were hired by different departments but met at the induction ceremony. However, even after years of working in the same office, Raghav doesn’t really know what Shireen does or how her department works. Shireen has often wondered how Raghav’s team functions and she’s equally in the dark. Furthermore, neither knows much about the projects their colleagues in other departments are working on.
In other words, Shireen and Raghav have fallen prey to a silo mentality, commonly known as silo thinking.
What Is A Silo Mentality Or Silo Thinking?
Let’s look at a silo mentality definition. Merriam-Webster defines a silo as “an isolated grouping, department, etc., that functions apart from others especially in a way seen as hindering communication and cooperation”. In other words, silo mentality in an organization occurs when people are reluctant to share vital information, tools or processes with their coworkers from other departments.
A silo mentality in the workplace is the biggest hindrance to collaborative growth and knowledge-sharing. It impedes informed decision-making and hampers productivity, causing a ripple effect throughout the organization. This bodes ill for any organization that wants to be profitable and scalable. Still, silo thinking is surprisingly common in organizations, big or small. So what happens when there’s a silo mentality in business?
Effects OF A Silo Mentality
The impacts of a silo mentality in the workplace can be both internal and external. Some internal effects are:
Two separate departments at Sony once worked on creating the same electrical plug without either department realizing it. This example illustrates the silo mentality meaning. When employees don’t talk to each other, they end up doing redundant work, wasting time and lowering efficiency.
Friction Over Responsibilities
The lack of clarity over task distribution often leads to uncertainty and insecurity among team leads and their subordinates. Departments begin to squabble over allocating responsibilities. This creates a toxic work culture that demotivates employees.
A fallout of a silo mentality in the workplace is that employees and departments stop trusting one another to do their jobs. This can lead to them feeling belittled by their colleagues or unappreciated by the organization.
The external consequences of silo thinking can be severe as well. While redundant work grows, other work doesn’t get done. All of these silo mentality factors combined lead to a diminished customer experience, which shows both the brand and the product in a bad light. This will create a cycle of poor feedback, flagging employee morale and falling sales.
Silo Mentality Examples
Workplace silos are the result of learned behavior. Employees emulate their leaders. Team leads might blame an organizational silo on the inexperience or lack of skill of team members. They fail to recognize that they should lead by example and encourage an exchange of ideas and information. But there are other silo mentality examples that must be considered. Let’s look at a few:
A top-heavy corporate structure, typically found in big, multinational corporations, would fit this silo mentality definition. Often, you’ll see a clear divide between the upper and lower levels of workers. Juniors feel alienated, as important information is rarely shared with them. This leads to red-tapism, employee discontent and a high attrition rate.
This is caused by a lack of communication between departments, especially when a particular division is only interested in getting its own tasks done. Such attitudes are often fostered by team leaders but can be perpetuated by all employees.
A key component in a silo mentality definition, geography plays a significant role in silo situations. Geographical silos can occur when employees of a large organization are located in different cities, countries or continents. The remote work and time differences hinder regular communication, causing colleagues to work in increasing isolation from one another. These silos add another dimension to the silo mentality meaning because remote work and cultural barriers are often unavoidable.
Can There Be A Positive Silo Mentality Meaning?
A silo mentality in business can sometimes have its advantages. It can foster open and effective communication within a department, as team members are familiar with one another and work better together. They develop a sense of camaraderie as they strive as a unit. But by and large, silo mentality examples are to the detriment of an organization’s culture.
Put An End To A Silo Mentality In Business
Is it possible to redefine the silo mentality meaning? Breaking workplace silos can seem like a tall task. Harappa’s Thinking Critically course is designed to give you the tools to do just that. It’ll equip you to become a mature, thinking professional who can consider different perspectives, separate opinion from fact, make well-reasoned arguments and communicate effectively. With the help of advanced techniques such as the Ladder of Inference and the CAFÉ Framework, you’ll gain the skills to understand how people process information and learn how to ask relevant questions for understanding issues. Sign up for Harappa’s Thinking Critically course right away!
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