Navigating Knowledge Hoarding in IT

Office workers hoarding all the information for themeslves

In the world of information technology (IT), knowledge is as critical as the technologies themselves. However, newcomers to the field often face a challenging obstacle beyond the complexity of their tasks: knowledge hoarding by more experienced coworkers. This issue can significantly impede career progress and create a stifling work environment. In my 20+ years in this industry I have seen this countless times. In fact, I have been subject to this a few times. If you find yourself in such a situation, where your growth is hindered by the unwillingness of others to share their insights or knowledge of how things work, there are strategies you can employ to navigate these murky waters effectively.

Understanding the Root of the Problem

Before addressing the issue, you need to understand why some individuals might be reluctant to share their knowledge. In many cases, experienced professionals may view their specialized knowledge as a form of job security or a way to maintain their status within the organization. Recognizing this can help you approach the situation with empathy and tact.

Strategies for Overcoming Knowledge Hoarding

1. Foster Relationships

Building strong, positive relationships with your coworkers can naturally lead to more open exchanges of information. Take the time to engage with your colleagues on a personal level. Shared interests, mutual respect, and understanding can gradually break down barriers. I should also mention that these relationships are build out of respect for the experience your coworker has and shouldn’t be forced to gain an advantage over them. That’s not respect.

2. Seek Out Mentors

A mentor within your organization or industry can provide invaluable guidance and insights. Mentors are typically more willing to share their knowledge and can also advocate on your behalf. This relationship can be formal, through a company program, or informal, based on mutual respect and interest. Mentors outside of your organization can be helpful too, but internal mentors can help you navigate information hoarding specific to your organization and situation.

3. Leverage Formal Training and Resources

While informal knowledge shared among coworkers is valuable, formal training programs and resources can also fill the gap. Participate in workshops, online courses, and certification programs. Not only do these resources provide the knowledge you seek, but they also demonstrate your initiative and dedication to professional growth. I think it’s important to get your manager on board with this. Sometimes there are free resources for formal training available to you and you may not know about them unless you ask.

4. Create a Culture of Sharing

Be the change you wish to see in your work environment. Share your knowledge and insights freely with your coworkers. This approach can encourage others to do the same, gradually fostering a more collaborative and open culture. Interestingly enough this often makes you a mentor and you’d be surprised how many others will come to you with very similar feelings to what you are dealing with.

5. Utilize Cross-Functional Projects

Engaging in projects that require cross-departmental collaboration can expose you to new areas of knowledge and different experts within your organization. These projects provide a natural setting for learning and sharing information across different teams. Learning to work across teams is a superpower that will help your career immensly as you gain more time in your role.

6. Ask Specific Questions

When seeking information from a reluctant coworker, be specific in your queries. Specific questions are easier to answer and less likely to be met with resistance. They also demonstrate your effort to understand the subject matter, making others more inclined to help. Also, make it clear why you are asking. If you come across like you’re trying to prove a coworker wrong, change something they have spent a ton of time building, or use the information to take over something they own, they will be less included to want to help you.

7. Document and Share Knowledge

Take the initiative to document and share knowledge within your team or organization. Creating wikis, documentation, or even informal notes and sharing them can encourage a culture of openness. It also positions you as a proactive and valuable team member.

Final Thoughts

Facing knowledge hoarding in the workplace, especially in a field as collaborative and ever-evolving as IT, can be frustrating. However, by using these strategies, you can navigate these challenges effectively and foster an environment of learning and sharing. Remember, the ultimate goal is not just to advance your knowledge but to contribute to a culture that values growth, collaboration, and mutual success. While we each have our own experiences and troubles to deal with, we’re all in this together and when we start thinking like that we can accomplish way more. I hope you find this helpful. Happy Careering!

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