How to end a culture of secret keeping

New research has found the counterproductive practice of keeping secrets from co-workers might be more common than you realize…here’s how to stop it from happening.

How to end a culture of secret keeping
In recent years, organizations all across the world have turned their attention to creating the most collaborative workplaces possible, all in the hope of encouraging creativity and improving productivity. So why is it, when companies are so desperate to get people working together, that so many employees insist on holding back?

Well, according to a new study from McMaster University and the University of Toronto, it’s because employees feel they’re more likely to be recognized for their individual achievements rather than overall team accomplishments. This leaves employees reluctant to share new ideas and information for fear that their contribution won’t be acknowledged.

The phenomenon, labelled by researchers as “knowledge-hiding”, is extremely common in the corporate world and takes various different forms in the workplace – some of which are significantly more harmful than others.

On the least-damaging end of the spectrum, workers admitted to concealing information they deemed confidential – fair enough – but, further along the spectrum, researchers found that some employees would withhold information by “playing dumb.”

In other words, employees gave co-workers incorrect or incomplete information or promised to provide information later but failed to follow through. Of course, this mindset can be incredibly harmful to companies.

Sharing ideas and information speeds up every process within a company but when employees are disinclined to dole out help, it only slows the whole system down.

So, what can HR professionals who want to discourage such damaging and deceitful behaviour do?

Most importantly, you need to reconsider you rewards and recognition systems – put incentives in place that will reward team outcomes rather than individual performance. By doing this, you’re much more likely to nurture a collaborative working environment where employees are happy to share important information and innovative ideas.

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