Are you expected to share information with your colleagues and team members? If someone asks you a question about a project or a task, are you expected to answer them with all that you know? While most organizations expect employees to share what they know, many actually do the opposite. Today, we are exploring the idea of knowledge hiding and why it’s a bad thing for your wellness!
What is Knowledge Hiding?
Knowledge hiding is when an employee intentionally hides or doesn’t share information that another person is asking for. There are 3 different ways an employee can choose to hide information. These 3 different ways are:
- Playing Dumb: This is exactly what you would expect! It’s when someone pretends to not know the information requested.
- Evasive Hiding: For this approach, an employee either gives bad information or says they will get back to them soon but never do.
- Rationalized Hiding: In this case, an employee gives excuses as to why the information can’t be shared or blame someone else for not allowing it to be shared.
For example, Susan asks Jane to show her where an important training guide is stored. If Jane plays dumb, she tells Susan she doesn’t know where the guide is. Alternatively, if Jane is evasive, she tells Susan she thinks it’s in a shared folder where it actually isn’t. Finally, if Jane is rationalizing her hiding, she tells Susan that only managers can access the guide.
In sum, employees that do not share relevant information with other employees are participating in knowledge hiding.
Why is it bad for you?
You might think knowledge hiding is bad for the company and for the employee asking the question. Obviously, if information is not shared when necessary, it can slow down work and create performance issues. However, hiding information can have negative consequences for the employee doing the hiding too!
First, employees and teams that struggle with knowledge hiding are less likely to be innovative and creative. Thus, being part of a team that hides information or hiding information yourself can stifle the effectiveness and performance of you and your team. It makes sense though, right? If team members are not given all of the information, it’s hard to be creative!
Second, coworkers have worse relationships if they do not share information. Obviously, if you feel like someone is keeping something from you, you may not enjoy working with that person. Everyone wants to work with people who will answer their questions and help them out. So hiding information can create real damage to a relationship. We know that strong relationships with coworkers are linked to well-being. Thus, hiding information can hurt your wellness!
Finally, let’s talk about thriving. We know it’s incredibly important to help reduce burnout, increase job satisfaction, and improve performance on the job. All good things! However, a recent study found that knowledge hiding can impact thriving. Why? Because when you hide information from your team members, your feelings of psychological safety decrease. In other words, you start to feel like you can’t share your thoughts, feelings, or opinions with others at work. It might be that’s why you aren’t sharing to begin with. Or, maybe, because you aren’t sharing, you subconsciously decide that it’s because you don’t feel comfortable doing so. Either way, knowledge hiding can hurt your wellness by not allowing you to thrive!
What can you do?
Luckily, this section is super easy to write. You can easily fix this problem yourself. Don’t hide information from your coworkers! Share information freely and encourage others around you to do the same. It might feel scary but you can do it! Talk to your manager about how you can help your team share information more effectively. And, if you are a manager, make sure you are sharing knowledge effectively. Encourage your team members to share with each other and do it yourself!
Now, we’d love to hear from you. Have you ever dealt with team members that withheld information from you? Or have you struggled sharing information with others? How did you overcome this? Let us know below!