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What’s with the workplace secrecy?


29 March 2019 at 4:30 pm
Maggie Coggan
Employees are more likely to withhold important information from their coworkers when they are feeling overworked, or to avoid criticism, new research has uncovered.


Maggie Coggan | 29 March 2019 at 4:30 pm


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What’s with the workplace secrecy?
29 March 2019 at 4:30 pm

Employees are more likely to withhold important information from their coworkers when they are feeling overworked, or to avoid criticism, new research has uncovered.

The research, by Curtin University, explored how organisations could best encourage employees to share information and knowledge with each other to boost performance and profits.

Marylene Gagne, lead author of the research, told Pro Bono News workers were more likely to share information when they were given power over decisions in their role, and were engaged and saw the value in their job.

“If they really see their work as meaningful, and feel that they’re making a difference through it, then that’s stimulating in itself and encourages them to want to share that with other people,” Gagne said.

But the research, based on interviews and surveys across various knowledge-based industries, found it was common for workers to hide information from colleagues if they felt that sharing it would create more work for themselves.

Workers were more likely to share if they felt they would be recognised for doing so, or be criticised for not doing so.    

Gagne said this could lead to employees feeling pressured and stressed, resulting in them sharing even less.

She said workers would pretend they didn’t have relevant information or that they had the information but were not allowed to share it, “so that [a] sense of responsibility was taken off them”.

Another contributing factor could be the high workloads that modern employees were expected to manage.

“When you have too many demands at work, at some point something’s got to give [and] if people can get away by not sharing, then they just gained a little bit of time to do other things,” Gagne said.

To avoid this trend, she said organisations had to make sure work was stimulating, employees were not micromanaged in their roles, and workers felt like their knowledge-sharing relationships were mutual.

“More and more, [workers] have to collaborate to get stuff done. But there needs to be good reciprocity in terms of, ‘it’s not just that others need me but I also need them’,” Gagne said.


Maggie Coggan  |  Journalist  |  @MaggieCoggan

Maggie Coggan is a journalist at Pro Bono News covering the social sector.

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