THE CRAZY THING ABOUT SILOS is they are viewed as allusive shadows hiding within the corridors of today’s organizations. Silos are responsible for keeping good companies from becoming great and great companies from becoming greater.

First tip in breaking down silos is knowing that silos are not shadows, but real obstacles casting shadows on employee satisfaction, employee productivity and employee achievement.

Silos are the unseen force that explains why organizations fail good employees and why bad employees fail good organizations.

Yet, silos don’t get enough credit or attention in response to its destructive nature. Silos are studied, discussed and written about, but surprisingly, very few professionals know where to look for them. Or what to do when they stumble upon them.

So what is an organizational silo?

An organizational silo exists much like electricity. It’s out there, but hidden. You don’t see it or feel it until it shocks you. Conductors of silos are barriers, boundaries, borders, systems, processes, policies, language, and infrastructure that ineffectively communicate the vision, mission and values of the organization. The result is noncompliant perspectives, behaviors and attitudes. For a good formal insight, click here on silo.

The latest attempts to identify silos is called “Silo Mentality”, which is defined as “lack of sharing of information” between employees, divisions, and departments. It’s argued that Silo Mentality will lead to the crashing of the corporate culture, if not the corporation itself.

No doubt, when employees don’t share information it undermines the integrity of the mission and operations of the organization. However, this term and focus is a silent silo itself, focused on fixing just one of a multitude of silos. The Silo Mentality’s lens is too narrow and creates a false sense of solution. In reality, Silo Mentality and other would-be employee engagement models are only treating the symptoms with a false sense of success in curing the disease.

We experience the clues left behind by silos every day. So much so, that we accept it as part of the norm. Here’s a sample of comments and attitudes that’s serve as evidence of a silo problem in an organization:

  • “That’s not how we do things here.”
  • “Corporate has their institutional ways and we have ours!”
  • “Those folks at corporate get the better raises and promotions, while we work in the field doing more for less.”
  • “That’s not in my job description.”
  • “That’s not my problem.”
  • “My employer thanks me with a paycheck every two weeks.”
  • “We’ve always done it that way before, so why change?”
  • “Those guys in the ______ department have their own language.”
  • “We don’t need any help.”
  • “Be sure to send an email to cover your ass.”
  • “I do nine things right, but get reprimanded for the 10th thing I didn’t do right.”
  • “If you don’t like it here, then why are you staying?”
  • “I don’t like my boss.”
  • “I don’t like my report.”
  • “The new girl will not last long.”

Who hasn’t heard one, if not all of these comments made around the watercooler? You’ve probably said a few yourself over the course of your career. These sentiments create fractals of negatively charged perceptions that multiple, like a virus, spreading across and weakening the organization. Not to mention, distract you from you objectives at work.

The first secret to tearing down Silos is knowing that they exist in plain sight.

We live in a world where instead of being thankful for what we have and finding satisfaction, we are focused on what we don’t have and become (fill in the ______) envious, jealous, isolated, resentful, unmotivated, depressed, stressed, disengaged, indifferent etc. I’m sure you know co-workers, acquaintances and even family members who fit this description. If may even describe you! If so, that’s ok, because there’s a pathway, if you choose it.

This cynical perspective is unfortunate, but it helps explain why we don’t see silos in plain sight, which empowers its destructive force. This leads to the second secret to reveal.

The second secret to tearing down silos is knowing we are the silos and we are the solutions.

Silos dwell, fester and thrive in nearly every one of us. They not only exist in the workplace, but in our families and in society (that’s another article). Organizations are not made up of brick & mortar, command & control and policy & procedures, but made up of people who affirm and define the corporate culture that often includes silos.

I know what you’re thinking and no, I’m not going to give corporate leaders and executives a pass for the silos within their organizations and your organization. They are responsible for providing a work environment that gives meaning, purpose and empowerment in the work you do. In fact, in my next article in this series, I will provide secrets on how corporate leaders can overcome silos from “C-Suite to Cubicle”.  A clue on how to do it will involve an unusual fish in the ocean, but let’s get back to you.

There are three main employees in the workforce: 1). Employees who overcome silos and become rock stars; 2). Employees who shadow box with silos and still maintain a level of productivity; 3). Employees who use silos as excuses for their poor performance.

It doesn’t matter if you’re the CEO or the intern. Silos are an obstacle for you to overcome to be successful. The key is understanding what you will do once you identify it.

As a CEO, it’s a matter of motivating employees to assign meaning and purpose to the mission – this often ranks higher than compensation in employee surveys. Moreover, it’s about communicating a vision and values that empower employees. We will look at the corporate “structure” and how to optimize your employee and stakeholder communications platforms that break down silos in my next article coming out soon.

If you’re a professional or an employee, it’s a matter of controlling how you respond in your workplace to silos. If you don’t find meaning in what you do, then take charge of your career and life.

In the context of where you work and what you do, become the solution by exorcising whatever silo constructs have fused themselves to you. At the end of the day, you’re in charge of you, so don’t become “Silo Psycho”.

This means, don’t affirm or validate the silo in your response. If you do, then you’re helping cast shadows and spreading the disease within your team, department, division, region and organization.

We don’t have control over many things in life, but we have 100 percent control over our attitudes and how we respond to adversity.

Share your observations, insights and expertise to make your professional experience more meaningful. If you do that, then you will overcome silos and become a rock star in your company. Once you achieve that, then you can help your fellow associates and company rise above the silos keeping others from experiencing their full potential.

If you choose not to, then the shadows of the silos will darken the corridors of your mind.

Are You a Silo Psycho? is part of SL7 Consulting Series, Revealing the Secrets Behind Silos. Be sure to sign up on to get the series and other thought-provoking insights from Patrick Slevin.

About Patrick Slevin

Patrick Slevin is a motivational and communications professional leading his firm, SL7 Consulting. Patrick is a former mayor, Fortune 500 manager, national trade association director and international agency executive. As a “special projects consultant”, Patrick identifies, designs, and implements innovative solutions for his clients.

If silos are keeping your team, division, department, region or corporation from going from great to greater, then contact Patrick to discuss how he may serve and help resolve your silo challenges.

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