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Why employees hold back on sharing great ideas

Updated: Dec 15, 2020

Your employees have the answer to your problems. Companies need employees to share what they know as this leads to greater creativity, more innovation, and better performance for individuals and organisations. Yet employees hold back what they know, a phenomenon called knowledge hoarding or knowledge hiding. There are many reasons why this may happen but the biggest one is FEAR of something negative happening as a result.


There are many different beliefs behind this fear, we have listed the most common.

Fear of making a mistake

An employee who lacks confidence or has low self-esteem will hide their amazing ideas as they do not trust in them. They do not want to draw any extra attention especially if they got it wrong. They fear making a mistake due to being mocked or ridiculed for it in the past, be it at work or early development. The work culture has not encouraged that mistakes and failures are the best part of learning and growth. Great ideas often birthed from bad ideas.


Fear of losing their power

They do not trust the people around them. They may have shared great ideas before with a manager who took the credit for their own personal gain. They received no knowledge sharing benefit or recognition for their findings hence they became resentful and lost motivation for knowledge sharing. They could well be the expert in their field and that gives them a feeling of power and they fear losing that so they play it dumb. The employees need to be coached and trained on the value of sharing knowledge for the greater good of the company rather than the motivation being led solely by an external and personal reward system.


Fear of losing time

Employees who are metric driven tend to be afraid time spent knowledge sharing will affect their statistics. They fear being punished for it. The job is not designed to allow for creative time and space, therefore time spent knowledge sharing brings down their productivity scoring. If they are known as the expert in their field, they attract more walk ups which can distract them from their priorities. Employees might notice when they propose something, you immediately become the person who must implement it which means extra work hours and their work life balance is at risk. Creative and knowledge sharing time needs to be added to their tasks within their contracted hours.


Every day, employees make decisions about whether to speak up or remain silent. The problem is that, in many organizations, the majority choose the safety of silence. This denies the organization and its leaders valuable information that could be used to make improvements. While there are ways to address the problem, it is strongly recommended that all organization leaders receive coaching on how to create feedback cultures where ideas and suggestions are shared, employees are listened to, and appropriate responses to feedback are given.


At Sakura Thinking, we help create positive and innovative work environments. Do you have questions? We would be happy to answer them, book a call with us today.




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