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This paper introduces the concept of knowledge sabotage as an extreme form of counterproductive knowledge behavior, presents its typology, and empirically demonstrates its existence in the contemporary organization.Design/methodology/approachThrough the application of the critical incident technique, this study analyzes 177 knowledge sabotage incidents when employees intentionally provided others with wrong knowledge or deliberately concealed critical knowledge while clearly realizing others’ need for this knowledge and others’ ability to apply it to important work-related tasks.FindingsOver 40% of employees engaged in knowledge sabotage, and many did so repeatedly. Knowledge saboteurs usually acted against their fellow co-workers, and one-half of all incidents were caused by interpersonal issues resulting from the target’s hostile behavior, failure to provide assistance to others, and poor performance. Knowledge sabotage was often expressed in the form of revenge against a particular individual, who, as a result, may have been reprimanded, humiliated or terminated. Knowledge saboteurs rarely regretted their behavior, which further confirmed the maliciousness of their intentions.Practical implicationsEven though knowledge saboteurs only rarely acted against their organizations purposely, approximately one-half of all incidents produced negative, unintentional consequences to their organizations, such as time waste, failed or delayed projects, lost clients, unnecessary expenses, hiring costs, products being out-of-stock, understaffing, or poor quality of products or services. Organizations should develop comprehensive knowledge sabotage prevention policies. The best way to reduce knowledge sabotage is to improve inter-personal relationships among employees and to foster a friendly and collaborative environment.Originality/valueThis is the first well-documented attempt to understand the phenomenon of knowledge sabotage.
Journal of Knowledge Management – Emerald Publishing
Published: Sep 30, 2019
Keywords: Knowledge sharing; Critical incident technique; Counterproductive workplace behaviour; Knowledge sabotage
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