Workplace epidemic: Knowledge hoarding

We’ve all seen the Fast Company and Inc. articles detailing the personality traits and characteristics of unbearable coworkers. Obnoxious people and their distracting tendencies are in no short supply. Each office is filled with the ramblers, the loud talkers, the procrastinators, the over-sharers, the dominators and the easily offended. But the one group that gets under my skin more than the rest are the ones keeping all the information to themselves.

 

I call these folks the knowledge hoarders. Knowledge hoarders are people who gather and guard information for personal preservation and future use.

 

Regardless of importance, information hoarding can a profound impact on an organization.

Fueling the knowledge hoarding epidemic.

There are a lot of different reasons people choose to keep information close. Perhaps they’re power hungry, or maybe they have trust issues, or they could be afraid of looking bad if they’re wrong. These are all very different and very serious reasons why colleagues refuse to share information.

 

Let’s dive into the factors at play for each of these groups:

  • Power hungry.  People crave authority and importance, andaccess to information is often mistaken for power. They believe that if they are the keeper of information, they are in complete control.
  • Trust issues. Sadly enough, 25% of people don’t trust their employer. When asked for information, people are hesitant to share and left wondering, “Why do you need this information?” and, “Who will this be shared with?”
  • Uncertainty and fear. A lot of people are afraid of giving the wrong answer. So, rather than respond to a request with the information they have, they remain silent.

 

It’s obvious that the driving forces for knowledge hording are detrimental to teams and organizations. So what can we do to shift the culture?

Creating an information-sharing culture.

Knowledge and skills are vital for both personal and organizational performance. Shifting from a knowledge hoarding to a knowledge sharing organization requires a culture rooted in communication and collaboration. Establishing a free flow of information will give your organization a powerful edge.

 

To get started, examine your work culture and understand the tools and resources you need to put in place to open the channels of communication. Study existing mentoring programs, explore departments and teams who collaborate and work well with each other, listen to feedback and connect with your team as a whole.

 

Collaboration and communication skills don’t come naturally to everyone.  A learning management system helps capture and manage information and sharing across your organization.  Give employees the opportunity to document and share their organizational and vocational knowledge. The insights documented in the system will give you better understanding of how shared information can help the business thrive.  Think about including professional development and certification courses as part of your corporate learning and development training. Provide employees with the opportunity to sharpen their skillset and boost confidence. You’ll start to notice you have a lot more knowledge sharers than knowledge hoarders soon enough.