Turfism. It's one of those annoying little things that usually ends up creating big problems in the workplace. People seem unable to help themselves, but also complain about its confining effects at the same time. For whatever reason, there always seems to be a number of employees who feel the need to guard their territory, which means they protect (sometimes with a vengeance) what they perceive to be "theirs." But in organizations, there is no such thing as the "master of a domain." Or at least there shouldn't be. No one has an inherent or definitive right to anything. Yet people act as if they do. As a result, turfism erects walls, commonly known to produce what has been coined in workplace jargon as a "silo effect," which ultimately limits communication, hinders the development of relationships and infects the culture with an overall lack of cooperation among people and departments.

territory, turfism, silos, silo effect

Now it's one thing to have safeguards in place that are intended to insulate a business against threats and minimize its vulnerabilities. Clearly, it would be unwise not to shore up whatever measures are necessary to prevent damage and reduce risk. But it's another thing altogether to have a company consisting of individuals who have confused the need to ensure the security of a business with their own personal need to "draw a line in the sand," and keep allies out. They tend to forget that within one organization there should be one goal and that the people working toward that goal are supposed to be on the same side.

Meanwhile, the irony is that once employees lose sight of the collective and generate their own internal division, they then become the very hazard against which businesses need to protect themselves. But the threat to a healthy business shouldn't be coming from within. Externally, yes, there is legitimate competition in the environment that every business needs to watch out for. But creating adversaries inside an organization is not prudent, it's paranoid and it makes so sense. Just look at what has happened to the financial and auto industries who for years have been looking out for themselves and fighting to preserve their own self-interests. Unfortunately, it came at the expense of greater good.

Happy New Year!

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About the Author

Donna Flagg

Donna Flagg is the author of Surviving Dreaded Conversations and a New York City-based dancer.

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