Diversity is fact of life, with workplaces being representative communities of different ethnicities, sexual orientations, skill levels age groups and more. With the induction of the newest additions to the work force, the stark contrast in the way members of each generation operate has never been more pronounced, yet one aspect of these differences – silo mentality– has been grossly ignored. This failure continues to negatively impact organizational results.
As more people are working past the age of retirement or entering the workforce early, workplace dynamics have shifted to include four generations of working class people. One of the major repercussions of the generation gap is that it has reinforced the silo mentality to such an extent that it results in a marked decrease in productivity and innovative thinking within the corporate hierarchy. It is this difference between experience and fresh ideas that is one of the most defining factors of diversity collisions that exist in the modern workplace.
Silo Mentality is a term that is gaining increasing popularity in corporate circles, even though silo behavior has existed within organizations for many years.
The Silo Mentality as defined by the Business Dictionary is a mindset present when certain departments or sectors do not wish to share information with others in the same company. This type of mentality will reduce efficiency in the overall operation, reduce morale, and may contribute to the demise of a productive company culture.
Often this silo mentality is seen in the dynamic between executives in the upper echelons of the corporate structure and their subordinates. In order of rank, most corporate structures are comprised of Traditionalists (1928-1947), Baby Boomers (1948-1964), Generation Xers (1965-1998) and Generation Yers/ Millenials (1977-1997). Before the digital revolution, there were fewer generations present in the workplace thus this organizational behavior went on without questions or challenges.
Each generation has intrinsic social norms; however there may not necessarily be four generations at play in the workforce as it relates to communication, but rather two definite groups with different viewpoints on workplace etiquette and communication.
Traditionalist and the Boomers thrive on face-to-face communication and active engagement. In a technologically driven society where increasing numbers of the workforce actively participate in networked communication, it is inevitable that there is a breakdown in workplace communication. This disconnect is as great as trying to send a text message to a rotary phone – it just won’t work.
Many organizations that are headed by Traditionalists or Boomers are not sufficiently equipped to address the impact of these generational conflicts that arise from the different mediums of communication. Avoiding the conflict increases the pervasiveness of the silo mentality. The Traditionalists and Boomers generally expect everyone to conform to their status quo. With a younger workforce that thrives on instant gratification and high-tech impersonal communication, the status quo is threatened. The Traditionalists’ and Boomer’s inability or unwillingness to adapt a more inclusive means of communicating in the workplace can result in the silo mentality. Holding on to information seems easier and more powerful than sharing and collaborating. Being the majority stakeholders in the upper echelons of the corporate structure, face-to-face communication is essential. A breakdown in communication is inevitable when the self-reliant and technology-oriented Generation Xers and Generation Yers thrive on networked communication and social media platforms.
On the other side of the coin, while the Generation Xers and Millennials are the groups that tend to accept diversity the most, the difference in values and modus operandi of the Traditionalists and the Boomers is not favorably accepted. Lack of acceptance of the differing communication preferences means that there are few alternatives to effective conflict resolution.
Effective solutions to these communication breakdowns is not as simple as deciding who is right and who is wrong— which is a waste of time anyway. The fact is both communication frameworks can be effective if they account for diversity and aim at fostering inclusion.
The Traditionalists and Boomers have mastered the art of building interpersonal relationships, stating the goals and giving precise directives. While Traditionalists and Boomers are more “I” focused they do understand the value of teamwork and facilitate this with communication processes that are focused and on point.
The Millennials and the Generation Xers have mastered inclusive communication that factors in feedback, opinions and active engagement. They have just managed to do so without the need for physical contact; they have networked communication to facilitate real time interaction. “Occupy Wall Street” and “Twitter Revolutions” are examples of the power of this dynamic.
What is required in a workplace is collaboration between the groups to create communication strategies that account for the diversity within the workplace. Overcoming silo mentality has often been ignored because the work required to remedy the situation takes focus, willingness to value differences and a genuine commitment to change the corporate culture. Progressive organizations are taking the required actions to close the generational gap through maximizing the strengths of each successive generation to build harmony, foster effective communication and mitigate silo mentalities. These organizations do not just measure the problem, they commit to the solutions.