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The effects of expert power and referent power on knowledge sharing and knowledge hiding

Abraham Cyril Issac (Department of Management Studies, Indian Institute of Technology Madras, India and School of Business, Law and Entrepreneurship, Swinburne University of Technology, Melbourne, Australia)
Timothy Colin Bednall (School of Business, Law and Entrepreneurship, Swinburne University of Technology, Melbourne, Australia)
Rupashree Baral (Department of Management Studies, Indian Institute of Technology, Madras, India)
Pierpaolo Magliocca (Faculty of Law, Giustino Fortunato University, Benevento, Italy)
Amandeep Dhir (Department of Management, School of Business and Law, University of Agder, Kristiansand, Norway; Norwegian School of Hotel Management, University of Stavanger, Stavanger, Norway and Optentia Research Focus Area, North-West University, Vanderbijlpark, South Africa)

Journal of Knowledge Management

ISSN: 1367-3270

Article publication date: 22 February 2022

614

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this research study is to determine the ways in which employees’ personal power-expert and referent power influences their knowledge sharing and hiding behaviour. There are hardly any studies that have investigated the effects of employee power and expectations regarding the consequences of divulging knowledge. In this study, the authors investigate whether expected gains and losses in employee personal power influence employees’ willingness to participate in knowledge transfer.

Design/methodology/approach

The authors adopted a two-wave survey design and collected critical data from 288 employees of knowledge-intensive industries identified through online techno-groups, such as Stack Exchange. In the first wave, out of the total, 192 knowledge workers attended the follow-up survey. The authors apply polynomial regression followed by surface response analysis to establish the effects of any discrepancy between the current levels of employees’ personal power and their expected levels if they divulge their unique critical knowledge.

Findings

The authors find out that employees having relatively strong personal power are more likely to share knowledge, and the expected losses in power are categorically associated with a reduced intention to share knowledge. The authors also observed an increased knowledge hiding with expected losses in power. Surprisingly, the authors find that these established negative outcomes are also specifically associated with the expected gains in personal power.

Research limitations/implications

The most significant contribution of this study is to establish that power plays an important but complex role in determining the employees’ participation in knowledge transfer activities. The authors specifically conclude that the optimal scenario for knowledge sharing is one in which the employees’ contributions are fairly valued and their reputation is not expected to change because of knowledge sharing.

Originality/value

To the best of the authors’ knowledge, this study is one of the first comprehensive studies that link power to both sharing and hiding of knowledge. This study is also unique in terms of its investigation of the effects of any discrepancy between current levels of employees’ personal power and their expected levels if they share or hide their unique critical knowledge. Thus, this research study is a unique contribution in terms of what and why of an untouched area in the entire knowledge management literature with a special focus on knowledge sharing and hiding.

Keywords

Citation

Issac, A.C., Bednall, T.C., Baral, R., Magliocca, P. and Dhir, A. (2022), "The effects of expert power and referent power on knowledge sharing and knowledge hiding", Journal of Knowledge Management, Vol. ahead-of-print No. ahead-of-print. https://doi.org/10.1108/JKM-10-2021-0750

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2020, Emerald Publishing Limited

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