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What happens when a department has a bad reputation

We all know when two employees have a conflict, there are countless articles on how to coach and mitigate the situation. But what happens when departments have conflicts? In virtually every organization, there are teams that don’t work well together. It may be a rub between marketing and sales, or operations and production. No matter the departments, this rub impacts morale, culture, communication, productivity, and in the end – profits. Department conflicts stem more from culture than solely from leadership. We often want to find a single source of blame for problems, and no question that a department leader sets the example for their staff, in addition to endorsing certain behaviors. Yet collectively, a department can easily create a reputation within the organization – one that’s difficult to work with stonewalls initiatives belittles others and over-elevates its own activities and importance. As a department, you need to know and understand your organizational reputation. If your identity — what you think about your department and tell others — does not match your reputation — what others actually experience — it will cause organizational bottlenecks. Information won’t be shared readily. People will create home-grown workarounds. Other departments will stop collaborating. In short, your department will exist on a proverbial island, and not effectively support the success of the organization as a whole. It’s essential that departments work together. Rarely are initiatives completed soup-to-nuts without the support, participation, or contribution from another department. Leaders frequently lament about organizational siloing, but often look at it through an operational lens – whether it be a lack of communication or process frameworks. However more often, the cause of this problem is the perceived or actual reputation of a department, and how easy or hard they are to work with. If you have initiatives that are perpetually on the “to-do” list, constant internal debates about who is the “owner” of a project, or frequent issues with one department not communicating with another, stop looking at the structure and look at the people. Naturally, people want to work with others that elevate them, challenge them in a healthy way, help them be better and more effective, and help them accomplish something they can be proud of. Is your department acting in a way that elevates the organization or simply focused on your own metrics and the things you want to do for yourself? In short, no department is more important than another. While some may disagree, each and every department exists to serve the organization and the greater organizational goals. When one department behaves in a way where its “reputation” precedes them, it fosters a culture of internal competition and an “every department for themselves” mentality. Department heads must take the time to examine their internal reputation – and how it helps or hinders their ability to work with other departments to support the growth of the company. This requires honesty – to listen to and take in both the good and the bad – and then use that information to relaunch your department’s internal brand if necessary. Just like an individual, you have to be aware of and continually refine your personal brand. If your department has built an internal brand that has a negative reputation, it’s essential to create a plan to correct it. Otherwise, you’ll be the ones actually holding the organization back – whether you know it or not.
Andrea Olsen

Andrea Olsen

About the Author Andrea Belk Olson is a keynote speaker, author, differentiation strategist, behavioral scientist, and customer-centricity expert. As the CEO of Pragmadik, she helps organizations of all sizes, from small businesses to Fortune 500, and has served as an outside consultant for EY and McKinsey. Andrea is the author of three books, including her most recent, What To Ask: How To Learn What Customers Need but Don’t Tell You, released in June 2022. She is a 4-time ADDY® award winner and host of the popular Customer Mission podcast. Her thoughts have been continually featured in news sources such as Chief Executive Magazine, Entrepreneur Magazine, Harvard Business Review, Rotman Magazine, World Economic Forum, and more. Andrea is a sought-after speaker at conferences and corporate events throughout the world. She is a visiting lecturer and startup coach at the University of Iowa, a TEDx presenter, and TEDx speaker coach. She is also an instructor at the University of Iowa Venture School. More information is also available on and
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