6 Common Reasons for Not Sharing Knowledge And How to Fix It

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Maybe you couldn’t get a straight answer from a client, or a team leader won’t send you a project document as promised. For all the benefits it brings to the company, there are still many people who resist sharing knowledge.

At the heart of the resistance is the fear of change: what would happen if I share my knowledge – and more so, if I depend on another person’s knowledge?

As Thomas Davenport notes in Ten Principles of Knowledge Management, “Sharing and using knowledge are often unnatural acts.” To make things more complicated, sometimes people won’t even admit or show resistance openly.

Not wanting to share knowledge speaks a lot about the interests (sometimes conflicting and competing) of people in your company. Understandably, people have various reasons for resisting knowledge sharing as much as they have different stakes.

Here are some common reasons for resisting knowledge sharing and the troubleshooting tips to address them.

1. Insecurity

“I don’t want to share what I know because it may reduce my value or jeopardize my job security.”

Guarantee that sharing knowledge won’t diminish anyone’s value – on the contrary, it would increase respect and trust. Your company could assign knowledge-sharing objectives to each employee’s performance evaluation and development plans.

2. Fear

“I don’t want to share my knowledge because I fear that it’s not accurate or correct.”

Reassure people who are insecure about the value of their knowledge. Explain that knowledge is not about being proven right or wrong – the collaboration and conversation that it brings out are more important. If you’re managing a staff, don’t penalize mistakes!

3. Suspicion

“I don’t want to get involved because someone else may take unjust credit of knowledge that I’ve shared.”

Ensure proper recognition where it’s due. Your company could develop a process for collecting and communicating knowledge and reward people for contributing.

4. Overload

“I don’t have time – there’s already too much work to do.”

Highlight how sharing knowledge could cut project development time and costs. Demonstrate how it’s a complementary part of daily tasks.

5. No motivation

“I don’t have to do it because my superior doesn’t cascade knowledge from the higher ups anyway.”

Your company must encourage a culture of knowledge sharing – starting from the top. Managers should demonstrate positive knowledge-sharing behaviors in their daily interactions with their staff.

6. Done enough

“I’ve already documented in detail my work processes – that’s enough contribution.”

Introduce other knowledge-sharing tools (such as hosting informal brown bag sessions). Explain that too much reliance on explicit knowledge won’t fill all the knowledge gaps, especially if innovation is an end-goal for your company.

It’s important to detect these common concerns and promote sharing knowledge by setting a good example on your own. Walking the talk is a collective undertaking: changes need to happen in the organizational culture, company values, and personnel behaviors if knowledge sharing is to be encouraged.

Any more tips to share? Please comment below!

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