Stressing About Change? Try Breaking Down the Silos

By Cindy Campbell

Fact: Organizational change is inevitable and constant. We’re daydreaming when we entertain the notion that one day soon the pace of change will slow and we’ll be able to catch up. (Hint: The keyword of that last sentence was daydreaming.) Changes in policy, practice, services, purpose, personnel—you name it, there’s always an element of change.

The perception of constant change can negatively affect an organization’s ability to work as a cohesive team. To protect ourselves, we sometimes break into smaller, safer working groups or “silos.” Silo mentality happens when units within an organization stop sharing information with others in the same organization. Unit silos are frequently the outcome of organizational growing pains. They inhibit communication, reduce trust, affect morale, and generally make it harder to get the job done.

Recognizing the presence of work silos is a critical step in improving the work environment, but let’s be clear: it’s only identifying the symptom. Addressing the root cause of work silos takes time but is well worth the effort. A common contributing factor could be poor communication practices. Not sure where to start? Try facilitating group discussions that address recent organizational changes. While it’s easy for the group to focus only on the challenges they’ve experienced, make sure you also encourage identification and discussion of the advantages of and opportunities presented by organizational change.

Intellectually, we know that not all change is bad, but when we perceive it as a constant, human nature tells us to resist it. If we perceive it as “change for change’s sake” or mistakenly label all change as bad, we do ourselves and our organizations a giant disservice and add unnecessary stress to both the work environment and our life outside the office.

Cindy Campbell is IPMI’s senior training and development specialist.