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This article focuses on research that reveals people who do ‘boundary work’ within organisations, that is to say, individuals who span different silos, are more likely to suffer burnout and exhibit negative social behaviours.

The researchers used “field data, surveys, and experiments involving more than 2,000 working adults across two countries” and found that there are three ways that organisations can reap the benefits of this boundary work while mitigating the downsides:

  1. Strategically integrate cross-silo collaboration into formal roles (i.e. acknowledge their role as “cross-team, cross-function collaborator[s]")
  2. Provide adequate resources (e.g. training programmes and tools for collaboration, but also reward and recognition)
  3. Develop multifaceted check-in mechanisms and provide opportunities to disengage (i.e. gain feedback in multiple ways to gauge when boundary spanners need additional space and/or support)

While past research has documented many benefits of boundary-spanning, we suspected that individuals collaborating across silos may be faced with higher levels of cognitive and emotional demands, which could lead to higher levels of burnout. We also wanted to understand if the exhaustion and burnout they faced may lead to abusive behavior toward others.


Cross-silo collaboration is a double-edged sword in the modern workplace. While it undeniably serves as a catalyst for expedited coordination and innovation, it can adversely affect the well-being of those who engage in it. The good news is that organizations can adopt a multifaceted approach to support their boundary-spanning employees.

Source: Harvard Business Review

(non-paywalled version)