Silos, divisions, and the problems they cause


When I was in graduate school we talked a lot about silos and divisions. It never really hit home until I started working in academic administration (as opposed to student services and that end).


The department in which I'm working used to be two departments, and a few years ago they merged. This has affected my life in a few ways, first (and most definitely foremost) of which is how my office and files are organized. Faculty's folders, which hold information such as evaluations, are not organized alphabetically, they are first sorted by previous program and then alphabetically. Contact lists are also sorted like this, which can make finding someone I haven't met yet extremely difficult. We also have two department leaders, one from each former department, who each had their own assistants. This lead to have three assistants in one office, each doing a specific job and working in a specific silo.

Silos have also caused other problems, such as redundancy. Each of the three assistants had their own files, folders, filing systems, etc. The past few weeks, my co-worker (Gina), and I have been going through files, folders, and binders. We've thrown out and shredded reams upon reams of paper. We've created more stream-lined processes, digital calendars, and it's been a lot of work for very little actual product.

Now, divisions, I think those are worse than silos. Divisions, and personalities, have caused some problems that might not be able to be fixed with color-coding, labels, and piles sorted numerically. Within the office there are currently two staff members, the department head, and student workers. Along with all of those, we help all faculty in the program and are the main support for the co-department head. Divisions include what people think each person is responsible for, how work should be divided, who contacts who for specific things. Even while working together, certain people don't know how to communicate effectively.

Through all of this frustration I truly am enjoying my new job. I really like working with Gina, and my direct supervisor is amazing. The university where I work offers fantastic benefits, including up to 12 credits free without being matriculated. It's been a great experience so far, and I'm really looking forward to learning and experiencing more.

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