Share this story

 | By Patricia Mish

We’re All Working in “Silos”

In my office, there are conflicts between departments. Management never does anything to fix this. It’s like we’re all working in silos.

Remember when “silo” conjured images of pastoral farmland, where tall, cylinder-shaped structures dotted the landscape? Silos “are usually sealed to exclude air” – making them ideal for storing grain, according to Merriam-Webster.

However, in recent years we’ve heard the term “silo” used to describe a less tangible reality in today’s corporate world. Which brings us to the respected dictionary’s third definition: “an isolated grouping, department, etc., that functions apart from others especially in a way seen as hindering communication and cooperation.”

The same attribute that protects grain can gradually choke an organization from within. And while agricultural silos can be hard to miss, workplace silos can be hard to spot. And while the term is new, the reality is not: Managers and employees alike can become territorial. However it manifests itself or develops, silos can be demoralizing for workers and, in practical terms, lead to inefficiency and conflict. The antidote? Collaboration.

As we read in Ecclesiastes, “Two are better than one: They get a good wage for their toil. If the one falls, the other will help the fallen one. But woe to the solitary person! If that one should fall, there is no other to help.” (4:9-10)

How to break the cycle?


Acknowledge the issue.

Conflicts are inevitable and not in themselves a bad thing. A good leader or, if need be, consultant, can foster open communication. While it may seem easier to stay in your own lane, ultimately the company will prosper when departments learn to work with one another.

Avoid office politics.

Encourage communication and candor so employees don’t feel the need to vent frustrations about management or colleagues. Whether a manager or a new hire, thank and give credit to others for accomplishments. Steer clear of gossip.

Put messaging apps to good use.

Make a concerted effort to help all feel like they are part of a team. Messaging platforms such as Slack and Microsoft Teams can be a great way for employees to stay connected, obtain feedback about current projects and support one another.

Lead by example.

As St. Paul writes to the Philippians, “Do nothing out of selfishness or out of vainglory; rather, humbly regard others as more important than yourselves, each looking out not for his own interests, but [also] everyone for those of others.” (2:3-4)