Smashing the Silos at Work

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You would think that in times of uncertainty, people from different departments would be even more cooperative than usual to make the organization successful. Instead people can become more defensive and difficult because they want to protect their turf. The result is bad for customers and the company’s bottom line.

Potential profit dollars end up going down the drain when different areas of a business don’t work together. As an example, a delivery person might notice that a customer purchases an item from a competitor that your company could provide, but instead of mentioning it to the customer or to the sales department, he keeps it to himself. “Not my job.” When asked why, he might complain that the sales people look down on the delivery drivers as second class citizens. A customer service person might also treat customers poorly because they don’t get respect from other managers in the organization.

What is the root of the silo problem?

There are two main sources of silos – one is a lack of common purpose, vision and mission that ties everyone together. In the absence of a common purpose, each team or individual looks out for themselves and doesn’t think about the needs of other departments. It is the manager’s responsibility to keep reminding people of the common purpose “Put the customer first”, “Growth is everyone’s responsibility”. “We all work for the customer.”

The second cause of silos is a competition when managers either accidentally or purposefully pit one department, division or employee against another employee, division or department. Sometimes is may be a cynical or sarcastic comment. Sometimes it might be in the measurement or reward system. Employee of the month is an example that can cause resentment. A team goal might be more helpful. It is okay to benchmark performance as long as its used to help lift everyone’s performance. When used properly, people will be more willing to give and get constructive feedback from one another because they realize the other person or department has his or her best interest at heart.

Employees take the lead from managers so the first person who needs to change is the manager.

Communicate the common purpose and be positive about other departments and see how you can be of benefit to them and they to you.