Silos manifest themselves on a daily basis, undermining profits, performance and productivity costing a corporation millions. The secret to breaking down silos is accepting the fact you have a silo problem. To deny that you have silos obstructing growth and performance is in fact creating a silo. Once you accept the problem, then you can begin to reduce losses and optimize your potential.

Silos have different meanings to different people within the organization. Senior executives it’s profits – management it’s performance – employee it’s productivity (or paycheck). Here are the 10 signs of silos from “C-Suite to Cubicle” that provide a glimpse into the not so mysterious world of silos.


1. I’m Giving My Two-Weeks Notice (Turnover): If you’re losing your top tier talent to competitors or they fail to meet expectations, it’s a sign of a silo. If top talent is leaving or you cannot recruit top talent, then that’s an organizational by-product of several silos that constrict a talented workforce from hiring to firing.

2. The Company Thanks Me with a Paycheck (Bureaucracy): If you have too many employees who feel disenfranchised, then they are working for a paycheck. Often doing their time of 40 hours a week, coasting and undermining employee morale and culture.



3. Those Guys at Corporate Don’t Get It (Step-Child): The farther your associates are away from HQ, the more silos come into play, causing non-compliance, ineffectiveness and inconsistent practices.

Big Deal

4. Those Guys Outside of Corporate Don’t Get It (Potomac Fever): The closer to the top you get, the farther away you are from solving problems. The powerful silo is executive hubris that creates blinders. More formality, more reports, more meetings, and less feel for the workforce will give birth to silos.


5. Another Employee Survey? (Night Light): Too many surveys look for satisfaction, but rarely solicit meaningful input to help employees find more meaning and purpose in their work. Most employees see the survey as a night light trying to illuminate the entire house. Therefore, surveys, for the most part, just reaffirm negative perceptions of corporate being out of touch and the survey is covering someone’s backside.

6. Meeting About Meetings? (Double Jeopardy): Wonder why you have so many meetings? It’s obvious – silos. Getting into the same room together and directly communicating keeps the silos outside the room, but in fact, it only strengthens them. When you get to having too many meetings, then work suffers, deadlines are missed and stress fractures performance.


7. Employee of the Month (Shooting Stars): Recognizing employees who went the extra mile is good, but a formalized, predictable program is counter-productive. For every employee showcased in the EOM, there are nine employees who feel overlooked. Perceptions of brown nosing, gaming the system and “managers’ pet” just builds silos. Randomized recognition breaks down these type of silos.

Employee of the Month

8. That’s Not How We Do It Here (Step-Child): Whether you’re across the world, country or department, corporate policies are too theoretical when you have to perform your job. You call it improvising or just getting the job done. Which came first, the silo or the egg?

9. That’s Not in My Job Description (Anti-Hero): Ever come across someone who is more focused on what he/she is not supposed to do versus focused on doing what needs to get done? It’s either a clunker of a hire or it may be an achievement-minded employee who has taken on way too much work from other folks and simply burnt out. Regardless it’s a silo that started with the job description and hire.

Email 1

10. Can You Resend the Email? (Machine Gunner): Sent an email days ago and it never got looked at or you didn’t see it come in your Inbox? Ever happen? If so, that’s evidence of a silo. There’s always someone who professes that they get over 200 emails a day, maybe you. Yes, it gives the impression that that person/you are very busy, but it also is a warning of key information getting lost or overlooked. This leads to delaying productivity and meeting deadlines.

These 10 signs of silos are the most basic evidence that the corporate structure needs a renovation. There are almost as many silos as there are employees, so leaders and managers must identify the systems, processes and practices that fail to empower the majority of people make up the workforce.


Thankfully, the solutions to silos are found within the organization. Yes, it’s about the organizational culture, but silos have several beginnings from command & control to punching the clock. So where to begin is key and depends on the type of organization framework you have in place.

The more you notice the silos that act like the devil on your shoulder, the more ability you have in breaking them down. The key is putting a system in place that empowers and engages. Look for more in the Secret Silos Series by SL7 Communications. Go to www.PatrickSlevin.com for more on the series and services.


SL7 Communications
Don Draper Mad Men

In today’s fractured and explosive media age, public relations has surpassed advertising as the integrated communications and strategic counselor to clients, and Mad Men’s Don Draper doesn’t like it.

Draper may be a fictional protagonist, but his character’s dismissive treatment of PR exposes stereotypes and biases that the advertising industry still struggles with today. This attitude is detrimental to clients and employers alike.

In Mad Men‘s episode entitled “Public Relations,” Draper demonstrates his contempt for PR, which creates some great tension in the drama. He bullies his employees, fires a client, and antagonizes an one-legged reporter.

Don Draper 2

The reporter attempts to interview the mysterious Don Draper, the partner and creative director of the newly launched ad agency Sterling, Cooper, Draper, Pryce.  The scene hits its climax when the reporter zeros in and asks the star of Madison Avenue, “Who is Don Draper?”

The question sets Draper off, and he dismissively retorts, “I’m from the Midwest, where’s it’s not polite to talk about oneself.” The reporter then ends the interview. When the less-than-flattering article comes out, Draper’s partners scold him for failing to promote their startup agency. The story results in the loss of a key client who was offended for not being mentioned with other clients in the article.

Draper’s lack of respect for PR came back to haunt him.

This scene subtly, but loudly reveals the tension existing between advertising and PR. Draper accuses the reporter of not doing his job and that his creative work should sell itself, but Draper knows he blew it.

The creative work would be Draper’s ads, which are great and quickly get your attention. But in real life, advertising mostly falls short of impacting corporate reputation, image, and loyalty. These are the areas that have the most influence on bottom-line interests, which is why PR is seated more prominently today at the table.

For example, if a company wants to attract multicultural consumers, who are unaware of the brand, the company must take a holistic communications approach that has advertising, as well as digital, social media, and grassroots, but with an overarching PR strategy.

Don Draper 3

The corporate credibility, citizenship, and narrative must be presented in an integrated campaign leveraging the strengths of numerous communications disciplines. PR is the only form of communications that can see the big picture and translate and deliver it to a coalition of stakeholders.

It’s sad to see Draper falling behind the times and losing his edge in the emerging world of integrated strategic communications. He may be fictional, but Draper’s attitude and shortsightedness of PR accurately reflects the thinking of too many advertising executives.

The next time I talk to an advertising executive saying he offers PR as part of his core services, I’m just going to politely state, “Dick Whitman may be able to mask around as Don Draper, but advertising cannot disguise its contempt for PR.”

This Slevin article was originally published in PRWeek in 2012.

About Patrick Slevin

Patrick Slevin is a motivational and communications professional leading his firm, SL7 Communications. Patrick is a former mayor, Fortune 500 manager, national trade association director and international agency executive. As a “special projects consultant”, Patrick identifies, designs, and implements innovative solutions for his clients.

For the last 12 years, corporate leaders from around the country have retained Patrick for his strategic counsel, campaign leadership and organizational solutions.

For more information go to www.PatrickSlevin.com.

Or contact Patrick directly to schedule an exploratory, confidential call at 850.597.0423 or pslevin68@gmail.com.



Bull Silo

Are You a Silo Psycho? is part of SL7 Communications New Series, Revealing the Secrets Behind Silos. Be sure to sign up on www.patrickslevinblog.com to get the series and other thought-provoking insights from Patrick Slevin.

THE CRAZY THING ABOUT SILOS is they are viewed as allusive shadows hiding within the corridors of today’s organizations. Silos are responsible for keeping good companies from becoming great and great companies from becoming greater.

silo 1

First tip in breaking down silos is knowing that silos are not shadows, but real obstacles casting shadows on employee satisfaction, employee productivity and employee achievement.

Silos are the unseen force that explains why organizations fail good employees and why bad employees fail good organizations.

Yet, silos don’t get enough credit or attention in response to its destructive nature. Silos are studied, discussed and written about, but surprisingly, very few professionals know where to look for them. Or what to do when they stumble upon them.

So what is an organizational silo?

An organizational silo exists much like electricity. It’s out there, but hidden. You don’t see it or feel it until it shocks you. Conductors of silos are barriers, boundaries, borders, systems, processes, policies, language, and infrastructure that ineffectively communicate the vision, mission and values of the organization. The result is noncompliant perspectives, behaviors and attitudes. For a good formal insight, click here on silo.



The latest attempts to identify silos is called “Silo Mentality”, which is defined as “lack of sharing of information” between employees, divisions, and departments. It’s argued that Silo Mentality will lead to the crashing of the corporate culture, if not the corporation itself.

No doubt, when employees don’t share information it undermines the integrity of the mission and operations of the organization. However, this term and focus is a silent silo itself, focused on fixing just one of a multitude of silos. The Silo Mentality’s lens is too narrow and creates a false sense of solution. In reality, Silo Mentality and other would-be employee engagement models are only treating the symptoms with a false sense of success in curing the disease.

Team Silo

We experience the clues left behind by silos every day. So much so, that we accept it as part of the norm. Here’s a sample of comments and attitudes that’s serve as evidence of a silo problem in an organization:

  • “That’s not how we do things here.”
  • “Corporate has their institutional ways and we have ours!”
  • “Those folks at corporate get the better raises and promotions, while we work in the field doing more for less.”
  • “That’s not in my job description.”
  • “That’s not my problem.”
  • “My employer thanks me with a paycheck every two weeks.”
  • “We’ve always done it that way before, so why change?”
  • “Those guys in the ______ department have their own language.”
  • “We don’t need any help.”
  • “Be sure to send an email to cover your ass.”
  • “I do nine things right, but get reprimanded for the 10th thing I didn’t do right.”
  • “If you don’t like it here, then why are you staying?”
  • “I don’t like my boss.”
  • “I don’t like my report.”
  • “The new girl will not last long.”

Who hasn’t heard one, if not all of these comments made around the watercooler? You’ve probably said a few yourself over the course of your career. These sentiments create fractals of negatively charged perceptions that multiple, like a virus, spreading across and weakening the organization. Not to mention, distract you from you objectives at work.

The first secret to tearing down Silos is knowing that they exist in plain sight.

We live in a world where instead of being thankful for what we have and finding satisfaction, we are focused on what we don’t have and become (fill in the ______) envious, jealous, isolated, resentful, unmotivated, depressed, stressed, disengaged, indifferent etc. I’m sure you know co-workers, acquaintances and even family members who fit this description. If may even describe you! If so, that’s ok, because there’s a pathway, if you choose it.

This cynical perspective is unfortunate, but it helps explain why we don’t see silos in plain sight, which empowers its destructive force. This leads to the second secret to reveal.

The second secret to tearing down silos is knowing we are the silos and we are the solutions.

Silos dwell, fester and thrive in nearly every one of us. They not only exist in the workplace, but in our families and in society (that’s another article). Organizations are not made up of brick & mortar, command & control and policy & procedures, but made up of people who affirm and define the corporate culture that often includes silos.

I know what you’re thinking and no, I’m not going to give corporate leaders and executives a pass for the silos within their organizations and your organization. They are responsible for providing a work environment that gives meaning, purpose and empowerment in the work you do. In fact, in my next article in this series, I will provide secrets on how corporate leaders can overcome silos from “C-Suite to Cubicle”.  A clue on how to do it will involve an unusual fish in the ocean, but let’s get back to you.

There are three main employees in the workforce: 1). Employees who overcome silos and become rock stars; 2). Employees who shadow box with silos and still maintain a level of productivity; 3). Employees who use silos as excuses for their poor performance.

Sinking the Ship

It doesn’t matter if you’re the CEO or the intern. Silos are an obstacle for you to overcome to be successful. The key is understanding what you will do once you identify it.

As a CEO, it’s a matter of motivating employees to assign meaning and purpose to the mission – this often ranks higher than compensation in employee surveys. Moreover, it’s about communicating a vision and values that empower employees. We will look at the corporate “structure” and how to optimize your employee and stakeholder communications platforms that break down silos in my next article coming out soon.

If you’re a professional or an employee, it’s a matter of controlling how you respond in your workplace to silos. If you don’t find meaning in what you do, then take charge of your career and life.

In the context of where you work and what you do, become the solution by exorcising whatever silo constructs have fused themselves to you. At the end of the day, you’re in charge of you, so don’t become “Silo Psycho”.

This means, don’t affirm or validate the silo in your response. If you do, then you’re helping cast shadows and spreading the disease within your team, department, division, region and organization.

We don’t have control over many things in life, but we have 100 percent control over our attitudes and how we respond to adversity.

Share your observations, insights and expertise to make your professional experience more meaningful. If you do that, then you will overcome silos and become a rock star in your company. Once you achieve that, then you can help your fellow associates and company rise above the silos keeping others from experiencing their full potential.

If you choose not to, then the shadows of the silos will darken the corridors of your mind.

Spooky Silo

Are You a Silo Psycho? is part of SL7 Communications Series, Revealing the Secrets Behind Silos. Be sure to sign up on www.patrickslevinblog.com to get the series and other thought-provoking insights from Patrick Slevin.

About Patrick Slevin

Patrick Slevin is a motivational and communications professional leading his firm, SL7 Communications. Patrick is a former mayor, Fortune 500 manager, national trade association director and international agency executive. As a “special projects consultant”, Patrick identifies, designs, and implements innovative solutions for his clients.

If silos are keeping your team, division, department, region or corporation from going from great to greater, then contact Patrick to discuss how he may serve and help resolve your silo challenges.

For more information go to www.PatrickSlevin.com.

Or contact Patrick directly to schedule an exploratory, confidential call at 850.597.0423 or pslevin68@gmail.com.