I’d like to talk today about hoarding. It’s dirty. It’s nasty. It’s wrong…oh so wrong. And the worst thing about it? It’s a terribly selfish disease: it’s all about you, but it destroys everyone around you.
No I’m not talking about that silly hoarding disorder when throwing away your newspapers is quite simply out of the question. Some think this is crazy, but what’s not to like about having to carve a path through trash in your house just so you can get from the kitchen to the bathroom? No, I’m talking about a particularly nasty form of hoarding. One that rears its head in the workplace more than anyone cares to admit. That’s right, folks. I’m talking about the hoarding of institutional knowledge.
Here’s how it works. You’re new to a company. There are a bunch of other employees around you who aren’t. In fact, many of them have been there for a long long time. And they know lots of things about this new jungle you’ve just set foot in. They know the short cuts; they know the sacred cows; they know the clowns with the short fuse and they know the ones you want to share a brew with; they know how to win favors with him and they know what not to say to her; they know who to go to when you need this and who to stay away from when you need that; they know where all the bodies are buried. And yes, they know the secret handshake. They know all the things you can’t learn from an orientation session or an employee hand book. They acquired all this knowledge simply because they’ve been hanging around a hell of a lot longer than you have. And rather than share all of that rich knowledge – I mean this stuff is gold – with you, they keep it all boxed up in their personal safe. Ain’t no way they’re going to give you a leg up after all that time they’ve put in. Nope. This is how they keep their edge on you, this is how they make the new guys earn their stripes.
To all you deeply tenured employees out there who hold the institutional knowledge: give it up, yo. We all stand to gain something from your sharing your wisdom. In fact, it’s probably the most important thing you can do to advance your organization’s success. Be deliberate about it – go out of your way to give those nuggets away. I promise you – and your organization – will be repaid in spades for doing so. And if you can’t? You’re as dirty and as nasty and as wrong as those crazy nuts on that messed up reality TV show*.
*No offense meant to any of my readers who may struggle with (directly or indirectly) this very real and serious mental disorder. This blog is written with hyperbole, and most of this is just that.