Workplace Rights

Weekly (11/21/10)

Topic of the Week  Information Is Power: Coping With an Information Hoarder at Work

DO reign in competition.
DO create a shared vision.
DO keep people focused.
DON'T allow fear to take hold.

Have you ever worked alongside someone who hoarded information? Who knew stuff that would help you do your job, but wouldn't tell you? It's hard enough trying to survive today's workplace without having to beg, borrow and steal to get what you need. Which reminds me of a vexing crime that was recently solved at Michigan State University, a thong thief. Turns out that someone had stolen 79 pairs of women's underwear. A student observed the thief removing underwear from a dryer and this led to his arrest. The thief claimed it was just a prank.

As tough as it is to have your underwear stolen, it's even tougher to try to do your job when people are robbing you of your effectiveness by hoarding information. And, unfortunately, it happens all the time. The irony is that although there are always individual hoarders out there, often it's the organization that often encourages this kind of aberrant behavior. I've included three Do's and one Don't to create a workplace where people share information instead of controlling it. For more, check out "Collaboration" by Morton T. Hanson (Harvard, 2009).

DO reign in competition. A little bit of competition at work can challenge people to come up with creative new solutions. But when competition gets out of hand, instead of a team you suddenly have a group of individuals only looking out for themselves. Who only think about winning and their own personal gain. If you are in a hyper-competitive environment like this, it's probably a good idea to take a step back to consider rewards and recognition that benefit the team, instead of just individuals.

DO create a shared vision. Serving customers ultimately should be the goal at work. But I've received a lot of emails through the years where workers describe their goal as finishing ahead of another department or division. Anything that encourages shortcuts or a focus on anything other than serving the customer creates problems over the long haul.

DO keep people focused. The whole conceit of this column is that information is power and that's why many people hoard or try to control it. By focusing on the big goals and keeping people informed, we can often keep people pointed in the right direction. The easiest way for a leader to do this, model the kind of behavior that you'd like to see.

DON'T allow fear to take hold. There was a recent study that reported that 75% of workers got scared when their boss closed their door. Just the act of closing the door stirred up fears that something was about to happen. Bosses need to realize how skittish most employees are today and do everything possible to keep them informed and relaxed. No news, today, is often seen as bad news by most employees.

Follow these tips and no one where you work will have to get their panties in a twist about a lack of information. People will share it instead of hoarding it.

About The Author: Bob Rosner is a best-selling author and award-winning journalist. For free job and work advice, check out the award-winning Check the revised edition of his Wall Street Journal best seller, "The Boss's Survival Guide." If you have a question for Bob, contact him via

Thought of the Week

"We are not cisterns made for hoarding, we are channels made for sharing. "

–Billy Graham

Blog of the Week

Top Five News Headlines

    List of the Week

    from Social Media Rules…How people use social media at work today

    · 58.5% of the survey participants checking Facebook regularly

    · 47.9% checking LinkedIn regularly

    · 22.6% checking Twitter

    · 21.9% reading blogs


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