How to Prevent Employee Knowledge Hoarding in the Workplace

How to Prevent Employee Knowledge Hoarding in the Workplace

Managing the office scrooge

‘Hoarding’! The word conjures up an image of a gnarly old Grinch stooped over a table with his hands around his possessions.

“Mine….all mine!” are the words that come to mind.

Knowledge hoarding may not look or sound like that but it is a very real modern-day phenomenon that can be destructive for any organization.

Knowledge hoarding is the practice of accumulating and preserving knowledge for personal future use.

How to Prevent Employee Knowledge Hoarding in the Workplace

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Knowledge hoarding can create problems with workflows and productivity.

In order to create an open and collaborative work culture, you’ll have to first identify what makes a knowledge hoarder tick.

There are four main reasons behind knowledge hoarding:

  • ‘Knowledge is power’ is an adage that knowledge hoarders believe in. They have a false sense of importance and think that with their hoarded knowledge they become irreplaceable.
  • Employees fear giving wrong answers, so for fear of being ridiculed they remain silent.
  • If your company culture rewards individual initiatives rather than group achievements, employees are more likely to hoard their knowledge.
  • Some employees are hesitant to share information with their bosses.

Whatever the reasons behind the knowledge hoarding, motivate your employees to open up and share their knowledge with the whole team.


Five steps to prevent employee knowledge hoarding

Now that you know about the pitfalls of knowledge hoarding and how damaging it is to your employees and organization, it’s time to take a look at five steps you can take to minimize the problem.

1. Create an anti-knowledge hoarding work culture

  • Inculcate a culture of sharing among employees. 
  • Let them know that ‘knowledge is power’ no longer holds true, with the advent of the digital age all knowledge has a limited shelf life.
  • Let them know that knowledge should be treated as a company resource and knowledge hoarding should be frowned upon.
  • Reward or recognize employees for sharing their knowledge with the team. This will lead to proactive employees and create a culture of trust, transparency, and collaboration.

2. Create a centralized knowledge repository

A great countermeasure to prevent knowledge hoarding is to create a centralized knowledge repository.

This should consist of company-relevant information and data and should be accessible to all employees.

3. Have a formal company communication channel

Having an official formal communication channel for your organization helps to reduce knowledge hoarding and knowledge loss. All company communications, be it emails, texts, messages, or videos should go through this official channel.

This will make it easy to update the repository so any resources communicated through the channel between employees can be retrieved in the future by anyone.

And don’t forget to document everything.

4. Create FAQs

Another way to minimize knowledge hoarding is to have a database of FAQ’s.

This is a systematic way for employees to access various knowledge-based resources in an easy manner.

This system will also free up your senior employees so that they can concentrate on their productivity instead of mentoring other employees.

5. Support multiple mediums and files

Employees nowadays communicate and interact through various mediums. 

Make sure your repository supports different modes of communication like phones, tablets, and computers.

Your system should be set up in such a way that your employees are able to access your knowledge resources from any device and from anywhere.

This will save time and boost productivity.


The dangers of knowledge hoarding 

The polar opposite of knowledge hoarding is knowledge sharing.

It is an integral component of a successful company that makes onboarding processes easy and helps in connecting team members with each other.

It’s also an important company resource for troubleshooting problems.

If your knowledge resource base is controlled by only certain members of the team (knowledge hoarders), the rest of the team will always have to go to them to access those resources.

If employees aren’t able to access information when it’s needed, it might feel like their pace and progress are being influenced by someone else and that they have no autonomy in their jobs. 

They might start to get demotivated.

Employees who don’t feel autonomous are more likely to be detached from work and less likely to contribute to the company.

When a knowledge hoarding employee leaves a company that has no system in place to tackle knowledge hoarding, it will be very difficult for the organization to plug in the gaps left by the employee.

They will also have to train new workers from scratch as there will be no reference points for the employees to start from. 

This is a drain on your company’s time, productivity, and finances.

How to Prevent Employee Knowledge Hoarding in the Workplace

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The challenges of knowledge hoarding are real and dangerous, given the damage that it can do.

Just think, if your team is hoarding all this knowledge, other teams in other departments too must be doing the same. All of that adds up to an insane amount of knowledge resources rotting away in someone’s mind, personal computer, or personal emails.

Imagine how all of that information could have benefitted the employees and the company if it was out in the open. All that loss is because of knowledge hoarding.

By going through the above steps you might be able to mitigate the damages that knowledge hoarding has done or could do to your organization and employees.

Remember that it’s not a quick-fix solution. Since it’s a phenomenon that involves human nature there’s no magic pill for the issue.

You can clear your employees’ misgivings about knowledge and its value. Especially in this day and age where information becomes obsolete as soon as it’s released.

Reduce their fears and encourage them to speak out and don’t forget to reward or recognize them for any team contributions they make.

How to Prevent Employee Knowledge Hoarding in the Workplace

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Work on your central repository and keep working on your employees to nurture collaboration and sharing.

Given the right environment and motivation, your knowledge hoarding employees might slowly transform into knowledge-sharing employees who’ll start to contribute to the company with newfound vigor.

Kapture can help you manage your company’s knowledge hoarding problems by setting up your central repository and also designing and implementing different sets of relevant resources for your employees.

Click here to find out more.


About the Author

Elvis Richard Cormuz
Elvis Richard Cormuz
Elvis hails from Darjeeling and has had vibrant work life experiences – a musician, social worker and freelance translator/transcriber, his hobbies include music, movies and reading.


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