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Why the silo mentality is bad for your staff, and how you can break out of it

Posted by Kate Donnelly | Monday, November 02, 2015

As the old saying goes, "a place for everything, and everything in its place." This is a great idea for keeping your home in order, for example, but if you try and apply this type of thinking to the office or boardroom you may find that the results are less than favorable.

Silo The workplace equivalent of this phenomenon is known as the silo mentality, and it's been used by managers and administrators for decades. But while you may think there are advantages to keeping your specialists operating independently of one another, when you're trying to effectively manage an assisted living community, you need the synergy of all of your staff members working toward the same goal.

But old habits die hard, and you may find silo thinking and operation appealing or simply hard to break out of. Here are a few ways the silo mentality may hurt your community, as well as some advice on how you can break this habit.

Why you need to break out of the silo

Siloing in the workplace is such a pervasive practice that you may find your community has been structured that way even if you haven't been actively encouraging it. After all, we're taught from the time we're very young that experts should take care of the tasks that fall under their own purview.

But there are some big things that are lost when you separate your staff this way: collaboration and the flow of information. If your community - not to mention the employees who work there - put the proverbial blinders on and focus solely on their stated jobs, it's actually less productive. This is because oftentimes information isn't being shared across departments. Granting departments or professionals autonomy is a good idea, as any HR professional will tell you, but too much tunnel vision can be inefficient, requiring workers to have to repeat tasks or resend information because it's fallen outside the boundaries of a person's silo.

And of course, everyone knows that the best work happens when you're able to bring a collaborative effort to fruition. 

Tips for leaving the silo

It can be tricky to try and break what seems like years of workplace habits, but it's not impossible. In fact, all it takes is some reframing.

The American Society of Association Executives listed some helpful alternatives for common silo-happy mentality. For example, employees may be keen on asserting their ownership over a given task or part of your community's operation. Likewise, this can translate into the excuse every manager and administrator grinds their teeth at: "That's not my job."

While autonomy and ownership are good, the ASAE recommended reframing these objections by emphasizing the importance of collaborative efforts. Additionally, if you redefine your workers' goals not just as "carrying out a given direct responsibility," but as "ensuring the smooth operation of the community and the satisfaction of the residents," it introduces a whole new perspective. If your staff members are invested not just in doing their jobs, but in ensuring that everyone - residents and coworkers alike - are happy and able to operate effectively, you may notice a shift in attitude that can help you blow the roof off of the workplace silo system.