Post Academic

Information Hoarding Is As Bad As Stuff Hoarding

Dean Dad over at Inside Higher Ed offered up a provocative title: “Making Yourself Dispensable.” At first, I thought it would be a guide on what not to do to get tenure. Instead, he offered a compelling argument against keeping information to yourself in order to boost your security in the workplace:

“I’ve seen administrators try to make themselves indispensable by hoarding information or by constructing elaborate networks of side deals in which they fancy themselves key nodes. It never ends well.”

When it comes to your publications, it’s one thing to take center stage and carve your own niche, but Dean Dad is right about the day-to-day workings of a department or any other workplace. Acting like a cast member of Survivor will only get you voted off the island.

Back in grad school, I had an odd job transcribing interview notes, and many of them involved interviews with business people regarding knowledge sharing. Nearly everyone in the interview said they wanted better knowledge sharing in their companies. They didn’t like feeling out of the loop, and some people were tired of having to go back and re-do projects because they didn’t get all the information the first time.

Of course, the problems associated with knowledge hoarding obviously doesn’t stop people from doing it. Hiding information can be useful in the short term because everyone comes to you to finish a specific task. It can also make you popular because you’ll hold fewer meetings, and no one likes meetings.

That said, if anyone finds out you are hoarding information intentionally or just didn’t bother to share it, it will wear you out at best and blow up in your face at worst. Save your information hoarding for your individual projects, like publications in which you are clearly the sole author, and hold a meeting or two. You’ll have to put up with whining, but it will be nothing compared to the whining that will ensue if someone on your team or in your department didn’t get a key piece of information.

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