Original Research

The impact of silo mentality on team identity: An organisational case study

Frans Cilliers, Henk Greyvenstein
SA Journal of Industrial Psychology | Vol 38, No 2 | a993 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/sajip.v38i2.993 | © 2012 Frans Cilliers, Henk Greyvenstein | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 31 May 2011 | Published: 22 March 2012

About the author(s)

Frans Cilliers, University of South Africa, South Africa
Henk Greyvenstein, University of South Africa, South Africa


Orientation: Organisational silos do not only refer to conscious structures, but also to an unconscious state of mind and mentality that takes on a life of its own. Silos result in the splitting of organisational artefacts and relationships, and impact negatively on relationship forming between individuals and within teams.

Research purpose: The purpose of this research was to describe how the silo mentality impacts on team identity.

Motivation for the study: During a recent organisational consultation the researchers realised that a so-called silo phenomenon had much more unexplained unconscious behaviour than was traditionally realised in terms of organisational development. It is hoped that findings from this qualitative study could give consultants entry into what happens below the surface in the silos’ unconscious.

Research design, approach and method: A qualitative and descriptive research design using a case study strategy was used. Data gathering consisted of 25 narrative interviews. Using discourse analysis four themes manifested, integrated into four working hypotheses and a research hypothesis. Trustworthiness and ethical standards were ensured.

Main findings: Themes that emerged were the physical environment and structure, intra-group relations, experiences of management, and intergroup relations.

Practical/managerial implications: Consulting on silo behaviour as physical structures only may not be successful in changing organisational behaviour. The silo resembles an iceberg – the largest part is below the surface.

Contribution/value-add: The findings evidenced silo behaviour to be an unconscious phenomenon influencing team identity negatively. Consultants are urged to study these manifestations towards understanding silos and their effect on team identity better.


Systems psychodynamics; physical environment; structure; intragroup relations; experiences of management; intergroup relations


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