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Many companies strive to improve knowledge sharing: they move to open-office layouts, have team bonding activities and hold interdepartmental meetings to break down silos. But all that effort might be for naught if workers deliberately hide knowledge from one another. 

new study published in the European Journal of Work and Organizational Psychology finds that knowledge-hiding is common in the workplace. Researchers examined the deliberate attempt “to withhold or conceal knowledge that has been requested by another member of the organization,” and found that information-hoarding (not just lack of communication) takes many different forms. 

On the least damaging end of the spectrum, employees said they withheld knowledge that was deemed confidential. In more serious cases, they deliberately “played dumb” to withhold information that teammates legitimately needed. 

“Even though every organization touts the benefits of teams, we’re often rewarded individually for our performance,” David Zweig, co-author of the study and an associate management professor at the University of Toronto, Scarborough, tells the New York Times. After all, knowledge is power.

While knowledge-hiding isn’t necessarily intended to hurt coworkers or companies, it comes with negative consequences. It prevents both colleagues and withholders from sharing creative ideas, for instance, and makes other feel rejected if they know information is being hidden from them.

So how should companies tackle knowledge-hiding in the workplace? “Put in incentives to reward people on team outcomes versus solely on individual outcomes,” Zweig says. 

h/t: New York Times

Photo: Can Stock