Working in silos means team members are isolated from the team itself. It could mean individuals or entire departments are isolated from the rest of the business. These individuals and groups don't collaborate with others, which can eventually lead to a lack of communication.
Working in silos is the opposite of collaboration; silos prevent individuals from being part of a team with a unified vision, while different teams work amongst themselves, not knowing what's happening with other departments or initiatives in the business.
This lack of collaboration can quickly turn into zero communication, even between team members. If everyone is focusing only on their tasks and not collaborating with other team members or teams, they won't understand the company's broader goals, which can make them feel like they're falling through the cracks and their work doesn't matter.
Common causes of silos in organizations
The silo mentality doesn't happen overnight; it's a process of isolating employees and certain groups that a company's leadership should be aware of. Most commonly, it stems from a lack of communication that doesn't encourage teams to work together.
While remote working is more prone to silos because workers can't walk over to coworkers' desks at any point throughout the day, the silo mentality can take over any business. Here are a few of the main causes to be aware of:
Leadership is often to blame for creating silos, especially in a remote setting. If your employees aren't encouraged to work together, they won't. Many want to come to work, focus on their tasks, and leave. Putting themselves in silos enables them to focus and get more done, but it can also harm team efforts and make employees feel isolated and even lonely.
Regardless of leadership styles, conflicting leadership often confuses employees. They're told different things and can't determine what they're supposed to do. This can ultimately lead to teams not understanding what different teams are working on and leadership making different decisions that affect the goals and ultimate daily work of their teams. Keep in mind that if leadership isn't collaborating, employees won't either.
Lack of company vision
A lack of vision is a major driving force for silos. Your company values should promote collaboration among employees. Without knowing the vision and goals, your employees don't know how their tasks relate to the same objective.
Sales and marketing may be two separate departments in your company. The marketing department may aim to develop brand awareness and leads, while the sales department wants to sell products.
How do these two teams support one another? Without collaboration, sales teams can't work with marketing teams to develop more effective strategies because management lacks a common vision.
Having processes and workflows in place is crucial for workers. They need to know the next step in the process at all times to prevent bottlenecks that can prevent them from completing tasks. Without clear workflows, employees will be in a state of constant confusion.
Employees may choose to silo themselves and focus only on their work because no guidelines tell them what to do. If there's no one in charge and making decisions for the team, everyone will work independently.
New employees prefer when organizations have the latest technologies that enable communication. A lack of technology like task tracking and project management tools can often confuse employees. They may know what they're supposed to be doing, but they don't know how their work is part of the company's greater goals.
Let's say an employee is a writer in a marketing team, and they're writing a landing page for an advertising campaign. If they don't know what the designer is creating because they cannot view the work, the result can be disjointed, causing one or both to return to the drawing board.
Employees should have the right technology to communicate with one another and share their projects. Video conferencing, chats, and project tracking tools allow them to communicate without necessarily getting up from their desks or having to drive to the office.
There's been much debate about remote work in recent years. Whatever your feelings are on the topic, there's no denying that the work environment can play a major role in the silo mentality. Consider an office environment. If you have cubicles with high walls, how can your employees feel encouraged to communicate with one another throughout the day?
Cubicles, departments on different floors, closed-door offices, and so forth can lead to a silo mentality because employees don't feel welcome to collaborate with others.