This paper responds to a recent trend towards reifying “knowledge hoarding” for purposes of quantitative/deductive research, via a study of information technology (IT) service professionals. A “rhetorical theory” lens is applied to reconsider “knowledge hoarding” as a value-laden rhetoric that directs managers towards addressing assumed worker dysfunctionality.
A qualitative study of practicing IT service professionals (assumed within IT service management “best practice” to be inclined to hoard knowledge) was conducted over a 34-day period. Twenty workers were closely observed processing IT service incidents, and 26 workers were interviewed about knowledge-sharing practices.
The study found that IT service practice is characterized more by pro-social collegiality in sharing knowledge/know-how than by self-interested strategic knowledge concealment.
The study concerns a single occupational context. The study indicates that deductive research that reifies “knowledge hoarding” as a naturally occurring phenomenon is flawed, with clear implications for future research.
The study suggests that management concern for productivity might be redirected away from addressing assumed knowledge-hoarding behaviour and towards encouraging knowledge sharing via social interaction in the workplace.
Previous studies have not directly examined the concept of knowledge hoarding using qualitative methods, nor have they considered it as a rhetorical device.
- knowledge workers
- IT service management
- Knowledge sharing
- knowledge hoarding