Why Employees Often Withhold Knowledge?

What’s stopping them from sharing their know-how? 
Timely access to critical information is the basis for improved decision making, effective work flow, good teamwork, product or project success. 
Yet, although we live in the information economy, all too often employees end up withholding the information others need and, by failing in the quest to obtain those information, contribute to the lost revenue or increase costs to the enterprise.
To say the least - contribute to the failure of the project. 
Reasons are many - from personal and cultural to organizational and technical.
Even more, oftentimes technical reasons count as the most important.
Although companies are investing more in collaborative technology, they are failing to realize the importance of choosing the right collaboration software or tools for their business.
This results in their firm belief that collaborative technology is the answer to their internal communication and collaboration problems and project and organizational management. 
What they fail at realizing is the importance of the human element. 
Withholding knowledge may stem from the belief that giving up valuable information will decrease one’s value as a worker. 
Some people are afraid of others stealing their ideas and reap the rewards. Others think that by sharing knowledge they will gain less and lose more. 
In companies that “promote” internal competition in the wrong way, employees will not see the benefits of sharing knowledge, yet, they will be drawn by the competitiveness and selfish objectives. 
This all creates a corporate culture that reflects the wrong values. 
Moreover, diving into the subject of knowledge sharing leads to acknowledging the importance of corporate and organizational culture. 
Furthermore, this calls for seeing the strong connection between leveraging knowledge and empowering productivity, creativity and innovation. 
No doubt, one of the main factors that drive worker’s productivity and creativity is technology, but technology that, in the first place, empowers innovation - driving people to be innovators.  
But for people to be innovators, creatives and passionate about what they do, they need to realise themselves that knowledge sharing is in their best interests. 
How can you create and promote a knowledge sharing culture? 
Sharing is about being open in your relationships and in the work you do, thus, each individual can start by setting an example, and creating an atmosphere of openness and social cohesion:  
  • Promote and maintain the sense of togetherness
  • Ask people what they think
  • Ask your coworkers for advice
  • Ask someone to work with you in some way 
  • Don’t be afraid to ask questions
  • Ask your team members what would they do differently
  • Share know-how and know-why
  • Ask people for help
  • Ask for feedbacks
  • Give feedbacks
  • Make it easy to share knowledge 
  • Make learning a routine
  • Tell people what you do and why
  • Commit to learning from one another
  • Know yourself
Sharing knowledge is also about showing how we can do our jobs more effectively, how we can develop personally and progress in our careers. 
Technology plays a crucial role in transforming the corporate culture to a knowledge sharing one. 
However, there might be many pitfalls to its effective use if one neglects the “human part” of the collaboration process. 
While technology has made knowledge sharing a reality, creating a knowledge sharing culture starts with individuals as the value of knowledge we possess increases in use. 
When a group of people with different ideas, experience, approaches and areas of expertise share insights and ideas, they will create a fertile environment for generating new concepts and ideas.
This paves the way to trusted collaboration - and the right collaborative technology can then maximize the sharing culture and commit to its success. 


Knowledge sharing also requires leaders to have reward system which recognizes this and very user friendly technology, fast and easy. We discussed this issue for a decade in our Knowledge Mgt. Forum here in Arizona USA and as a change leadership expert I always advocate for the power of leadership and culture in addition to the usual tech. solutions. Great question and key issue! Dr LInne Bourget MA MBA Ph.D. www.whatyousayiswhatyouget.com

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