Knowledge Hiding in Organizations

Topics: Knowledge, Knowledge management, Factor analysis Pages: 46 (14597 words) Published: April 11, 2013
Journal of Organizational Behavior, J. Organiz. Behav. 33, 64–88 (2012) Published online 5 January 2011 in Wiley Online Library ( DOI: 10.1002/job.737

Knowledge hiding in organizations

DeGroote School of Business, McMaster University, Hamilton, ON, Canada Department of Management, University of Toronto, Toronto, ON, Canada Queen’s School of Business, Queen’s University, Kingston, ON, Canada


Despite the efforts to enhance knowledge transfer in organizations, success has been elusive. It is becoming clear that in many instances employees are unwilling to share their knowledge even when organizational practices are designed to facilitate transfer. Consequently, this paper develops and investigates a novel construct, knowledge hiding. We establish that knowledge hiding exists, we distinguish knowledge hiding from related concepts (knowledge hoarding and knowledge sharing), and we develop a multidimensional measure of this construct. We also identify several predictors of knowledge hiding in organizations. The results of three studies, using different methods, suggest that knowledge hiding is comprised of three related factors: evasive hiding, rationalized hiding, and playing dumb. Each of these hiding behaviors is predicted by distrust, yet each also has a different set of interpersonal and organizational predictors. We draw implications for future research on knowledge management. Copyright # 2011 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. Keywords: knowledge management; knowledge hiding; distrust; knowledge sharing; knowledge hoarding

Learning ‘‘to withhold some versions of the truth is fundamental to the maintenance of the social order . . . On the other hand, organizations have put enormous emphasis on ‘openness,’ ‘information sharing,’ ‘knowledge management,’ and ‘telling it how it is’ as part of a process of improving performance’’ (Schein, 2004, p. 261).

Organizations do not ‘‘own’’ the ‘‘intellectual assets’’ of employees, and as such, cannot coerce workers to transfer their knowledge to other organizational members (Kelloway & Barling, 2000). Despite efforts designed to enhance knowledge transfer within organizations, success has been elusive (Hislop, 2002). This reluctance to transfer knowledge persists even when employees are encouraged and rewarded for doing so (e.g., Bock, Zmud, Kim, & Lee, 2005; Swap, Leonard, Shields, & Abrams, 2001). There is growing acknowledgement that employees must be motivated to share their knowledge with others, although this is difficult (e.g., Husted & Michailova, 2002; Wittenbaum, Hollingshead, & Botero, 2004). To address this challenge, researchers have focused on factors that may increase knowledge sharing, such as how sharing may enhance one’s status and reputation (Wasko & Faraj, 2005), how developing nurturing relationships may lead to reciprocal behaviors such as knowledge sharing (Ko, Kirsh, & King, 2005), and how employees’ behaviors may be * Correspondence to: Catherine E. Connelly, DeGroote School of Business, McMaster University, 1280 Main Street West, Hamilton, ON, Canada L8S 4M4. E-mail:

Copyright # 2011 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

Received 28 July 2009 Revised 8 November 2010, Accepted 18 November 2010



affected by sharing norms (Bock et al., 2005). Other factors that might encourage knowledge sharing include: incentives (Bartol & Srivastava, 2002), fairness (Bouty, 2002), psychologic contract maintenance (Scarborough & Carter, 2000), and knowledge sharing climate (Connelly & Kelloway, 2003; Jarvenpaa & Staples, 2001). Further, because of the way in which trust captures the complexity of interpersonal relationships, several researchers have examined how it affects knowledge sharing in organizations (e.g., Jarvenpaa & Majchrzak, 2008; Kankahalli, Tan, & Wei, 2005). Although much...

References: J. Organiz. Behav. 33, 64–88 (2012) DOI: 10.1002/job
J. Organiz. Behav. 33, 64–88 (2012) DOI: 10.1002/job
J. Organiz. Behav. 33, 64–88 (2012) DOI: 10.1002/job
Copyright of Journal of Organizational Behavior is the property of John Wiley & Sons, Inc
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