Knowledge hoarding occurs when there’s a refusal to pass on knowledge

Highly experienced staff accumulate invaluable conceptual frameworks and knowledge (“deep smarts”) which help them generate and implement business solutions with greater accuracy and less effort compared to more junior staff.

Knowledge hoarding occurs when senior staff members refuse to pass on their knowledge. Such a dynamic can thwart business growth, erode staff morale and create a secrecy culture. While knowledge hoarding may be confronting and frustrating to an organisation, understanding the reasons for the behaviour is critical. Several reasons for knowledge hoarding exist:

  • Fear of being overwhelmed and reluctance to take on a mentoring role
  • Resentment toward the organisation
  • Fear of loss of prestige/being in the position of the “go-to” person
  • Financial incentives such as the capacity to apply their deep smarts with other organisations

Creating a culture of knowledge sharing

It is critical to identify the phenomenon of knowledge hoarding as well as the motivational drivers for it. Taking into account both individual personality dynamics and the wider organisational culture is key.

Creating a culture of knowledge sharing rests upon respect for senior staff that is tangible and not merely lip service. Respect includes proper attribution for their work and involving them in the decision-making process. It also involves giving them the time and the authority to take on a mentoring role rather than expecting this to be done in addition to their other duties. At a personal level, knowledge hoarding robs the seasoned practitioner, no matter their field of expertise, of the full value of being recognised as an authority and leaving a lasting legacy.

Is knowledge hoarding hurting your organisation? Have management practices created an environment where your most talented staff have becoming less willing to share?

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