Silo Mentality is a dangerous mindset for teams to fall into, and with more people working online than ever it’s increasingly important for businesses to understand what it is and how to combat it. When working in silos people end up isolating themselves from the team and from other departments, resulting in lower efficiency and a poorer work product.
In this article, we will go over how to best understand Silo Mentality and its major consequences, along with some of the best ways to combat it in the workplace. If you want to learn more about various workplace strategies, check out our guides to design thinking and visual thinking strategies.
Silo Mentality Definition
What is Silo Mentality?
Silo Mentality is a mindset of exclusivity that exists when people in different teams refuse to share information with other departments or other team members. This restrictive attitude seals off information and work progress, creating an isolated work environment for teams and often sees employees hoarding knowledge for their own benefit.
The presence of Silo Mentality will cause people to be much more restrictive when sharing information with each other, causing a breakdown in collaborative communication and effectively reducing the efficiency of the workplace as a whole. This attitude is most often observed between members of competing teams/the teams themselves, where some work may overlap and require collaboration.
Because this mentality affects not only the company culture but the work product as well, it contributes to the failure to reach important business goals. In this way, silos act as blockades to natural adaptation, growth, and evolution within the workplace.
When people work in isolation, they will often either overlap in their work product or will do unnecessary or misaligned work. These outcomes prevent adaptability within a business and lead to an overall lack of efficiency. Not only does this massively harm the companies time and money, but will also affect the customer’s experience.
Silos are usually caused by a trickle-down of executive leadership and seep into the culture of the workplace. Siloed teams usually work isolated from one another, creating a divide between the teams and leading to issues both internal and external for the business and the customer.
Now that we have a good understanding of what silo mentality is, let’s review some of the consequences it has on the workplace.
Silo Mentality Consequences
As we mentioned, silo mentality can have serious consequences within the workplace and can distance teams’ ability to effectively collaborate with each other. Here are some of the distinct consequences of falling into silo mentality.
When working in silos people are prone to engaging in disconnected behavior, often working with misaligned priorities and making separate decisions. Within silo mentality, people are encouraged to make decisions based on their own priorities and benefit rather than the benefit of the entire team.
When people work like this they don’t see the value in helping solve each other’s problems and lack the incentive to do so. This makes communication and collaboration extremely stagnant between teams which is a big downside of silo mentality.
Silo mentality causes people to look down towards their own personal benefit rather than up to the goals and structure of the larger team. This attitude means that people are more than happy to just work parallel to each other, focusing on themselves, and not fostering an environment of growth.
As we said before, when people ignore collaboration and team goals, they will never be able to adapt and evolve into something better. This reluctance to adapt is a killer for any business and a reason silo mentality should be mitigated.
People Gatekeep Responsibility and are Reluctant to Take Ownership
When people are working in a disconnected environment, they become averse to sharing their work and begin gatekeeping the responsibility that comes with certain tasks.
When working on projects with other teams, however, they are very quick to shift blame and responsibility onto other people who are outside of their silo. This would seem to conflict with the previous point, being that if you gatekeep the responsibility of the project, how can the poor result be someone else’s fault?
Regardless of what project is in progress or who’s responsible for it, the whole point is that different silos don’t want to share anything with each other, whether it be work product or responsibility.
This is an extremely toxic trait in the workplace and leads to massive fissures in the ability of people to maintain functioning professional relationships.
Ways to Combat Silo Mentality
At Fresco, our mission is to enable teams to overcome the barriers that exist between them and an effective collaboration experience. When people are able to share a visual space and work with each other instead of alongside each other, anything is possible. Here are some of the ways you can combat silo mentality within your team.
Use Online Whiteboards
Online whiteboards are the best tool to engage entire workspaces in visual collaboration and align them on the same space. They enable people, no matter the product or relations, to align themselves on the same shared space. This is one of the hardest things to do when entrenched in silo mentality and an online whiteboard makes it incredibly easy.
Not only can you organize people on a shared space, but you can do all sorts of effective activities to engage them with each other and help them work towards common goals. These could include virtual workshops, persona maps, or any other business-facing information session.
For these reasons, online whiteboards create an innovative space that people can collaborate on while combatting the biggest consequences of falling into a silo mentality.
Finding Common Ground
When working with silo mentality, one of the things that dissuades people from working with each other is the fact that they don’t see any common goals or tasks that are shared with other teams. Because of this lack of common ground, people feel validated in their isolation and the fact that they can focus strictly on themselves.
The key to breaking this mentality is giving people a common ground to share. When they feel that they share some tasks or some overall goal, it helps break the isolation of the silo.
Create Goal Alignment
Similar to the last point, isolation is an easy trap to fall into when people feel that their work doesn’t impact the rest of the team and they can simply focus on their personal goals and ignore the shared goals of the business.
A way to combat this, and a perk of using an online whiteboard, is creating alignment between various different business goals and personal interests. Where finding common ground is more about locating some work that corresponds with multiple parties, creating goal alignment is an attempt to align your entire team around a common set of goals that will only be reached with the cooperation of everyone in the team.
Online whiteboards make it incredibly easy to create and track shared goals, and this is a good way to begin transitioning away from silo mentality.
It’s no secret that silo mentality is incredibly stifling to people trying to collaborate, and increasing their ability to collaborate is one of the best ways to reverse the effects of working in a silo mentality.
Creating an environment that depends on collaboration and thrives when people collaborate is critical in deconstructing silo mentality. This gets people working together and more than simply working together helps facilitate the free flow of information between people and teams.
Collaboration is important but the real importance lies in the information that is shared between people through this collaboration. It’s critical that people are able to share knowledge through their collaboration and commit to doing so because this is the critical piece of collaboration that aligns people’s goals and tasks.
Effective collaboration means that the whole becomes greater than the pieces, and through collaboration, this principle will help break down even the most ingrained silo mentality.
Silo mentality is a critical problem to understand and combat if you are to promote efficiency and collaboration in the workplace. Hopefully, this guide has helped in understanding these problems and finding ways to push back against them. If you are interested in reading more Fresco content, check out our latest post on the QuestionPro blog about using a customer service roadmap.