What Is a Silo Mentality?

A silo mentality is a reluctance to share information with employees of different divisions in the same company. This attitude is seen as reducing the organization's efficiency and, at worst, contributing to a damaged corporate culture.

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Silo Mentality

How a Silo Mentality Works

The word silo originally referred to storage containers for grain or missiles, but it is now used as a metaphor for separate entities that stockpile information and effectively seal it in. In business, it refers to an organization that is made up of divisions that operate independently and avoid sharing information.

[Important: Managers of successful firms generally encourage the free flow of information between departments so that all aspects of the company can function effectively.]

The silo mentality is generally seen as a top-down issue arising from competition between senior managers. The protective attitude towards information begins with management and is passed down to individual employees.

It also may be seen between individual employees, who may hoard information for their own benefit. It is often found between employees of competing departments, such as marketing and sales, where some assigned duties overlap.

It's not always a matter of clashing egos. A silo mentality can reflect a narrow vision. The employees are so bogged down in their own daily chores that they never see the bigger picture or see themselves as having a critical role in that bigger picture. Or they may be utterly unaware of the value to others of the information they're sitting on.

No matter what the reasons for it is, a silo mentality exists because senior management allows it to exist. Managers of successful firms generally encourage the free flow of information between departments so that all aspects of the company can function effectively.

The lack of cross-departmental communication can negatively impact workflow, as information is not passed freely across the organization. This can leave some departments working with inaccurate or out-of-date information.

A silo mentality inevitably damages morale, especially when employees become aware of the problem and are unable to do anything to change it.

Special Considerations

Attitudes are difficult to change, especially when self-interest is at stake. A writer for salesforce.com suggests that the keys to dismantling silos are "cooperation, communication, and collaboration." Some of the specific suggestions for management changes include:

  • Create and communicate a unified vision that is shared across departments to encourage collaborative sharing of information.
  • Install company-wide software that records and tracks progress towards the company's goals, and give all employees access to it.
  • Hold interdepartmental events such as training seminars that allow employees to get to know and respect each other.
  • Consider altering the employee compensation structure so that it rewards progress towards company-wide goals.

Key Takeaways

  • The silo mentality is seen as a top-down issue.
  • The result is a tendency to hoard information within a department rather than sharing it appropriately.
  • Encouraging cooperation, communication, and collaboration are key to opening up the silos.