All Workplace Jerks Don’t Have to Scream – The Information Hoarder…

You’ve read enough about jerks in the workplace and “no-jerk rules”, and you’ve probably come to the conclusion that the ranter and/or the screamer are the most destructive teammates you can have in the workplace.

Not me.  I think the folks who don’t give you all the information are the most dangerous.  That’s the person who will smile at you, then fail to give you the information needed for you or the team to thrive.  They’re more dangerous because you can’t tell who they are in the workplace unless you really pay attention…

I’ll call them the “Information Hoarder“.  Some folks call them non-collaborative, and they exist everywhere…

From Steve Roesler at All Things Workplace:

“I just spent 3 hours coaching a client who is now forced to deal with a highly intelligent,Knowledge_hoarder high-performing manager who isn’t viewed as collaborative. By anyone. No one at any of their worldwide locations gave him decent feedback on teamwork and collaboration. And this has been happening for a few years. (He continues to achieve all of the goals set out for him–and no one dislikes him personally.)

I sat down and spoke with the manager some months ago about these perceptions and what that might mean to his career. He understood that people didn’t see him as collaborative. His take on it is that they are universally wrong. He communicates when he believes it’s necessary. I told him that he had to simply initiate more, share more information–even if it didn’t make sense to him–and mend some strained relationships with those who thought he was actually hiding something. He listened, gave intellectual rebuttals for why that didn’t make sense, and chose not to do anything differently.

His management career is finished…at least with his current employer. He’ll probably have a shot at being an individual contributor in a specific discipline; but upward mobility is no longer a possibility.”

The Information Hoarder holds a lot of data, but likes to keep it to themselves for the sake of power.  The managers at your company will often avoid confrontation with this flavor of jerk so they can make it through the next month or quarter.

I once knew an information hoarder so focused on controlling access to information that he/she refused to share an existing customer list with new sales reps.  The solution if the new sales reps needed to contact an existing customer?  The hoarder farmed out the necessary name and number, one contact at a time, as needed.  They also gave it verbally, refusing to email or write it down.

That’s control and hoarding at its best.  Trying to get info out of the information hoarder?  Bring a lot of questions, because their logic tells them that if you didn’t ask, they aren’t lying – even if they’re thinking of questions you should be asking while you’re talking to them.


FOT Background Check

Kris Dunn
 Kris Dunn is Chief Human Resources Officer at Kinetix and a blogger at The HR Capitalist and the Founder and Executive Editor of Fistful of Talent. That makes him a career VP of HR, a blogger, a dad and a hoops junkie, the order of which changes based on his mood. Tweet him @kris_dunn. Oh, and in case you hadn't heard the good word, he's also jumped into the RPO game as part owner of a rising shop out of ATL, Kinetix. Not your mama's recruiting process outsourcing, that's for sure... check 'em out.


  1. Kris, super post – it makes me consider two recent situations:
    a. Fortune magazine published an article in 7/07, “The Hidden Organization”. It left an indelible mark on me in terms of better understanding the social network architecture (the social ‘fabric’) and how the informal org chart typically looks nothing like the written one. ( Kudos to Fortune for integrating science into the picture, and trust me, it’s 100% relevant.
    b. I am currently recruiting for a VP of North American Operations, and when an Admin Asst saw my candidate in the building for an interview, she made it a point to complain to HR. She’s been at this new company for 4 months after being at her former for 30 yrs, and had a personal issue with this VP for letting her go at her former firm. Based on further discussions, I’ve come to learn that she was a true Information-Hoarder (at the former firm) to maintain power and resist any organizational change.
    Again, great post 🙂

  2. Lynn M says:

    While it may be seen as a power move to hoard information, (or while the hoarder may see it that way), in reality it is a fearful move. When people won’t share knowledge they are fearful that someone is going to take it and they will be rendered useless. Those who are confident in their abilities, talents, knowledge, and experience can share freely because they know their own value. Perhaps understanding that a person like this is fearful can help you to better strategize how you will work with him/her and maybe you’ll be the one person who’s able to gain trust and have access.

  3. @Lynn M: Yep, I agree. It’s totally rooted in insecurity, and knowing that really does help a lot!

  4. Ethan Bull says:

    On the other side of the coin, the people who hoard the information might believe that such actions make them indispensable and depending on the organization and information, that might be true but most good companies that I’ve worked for don’t let this happen.
    I recently heard of a hedge fund worker refusing to take on more work as they downsized. Her job could have been cut as well but since she was the only one who knew credit default swaps, they kept her on. She knew that she had leverage over the organization but in this case it wasn’t a matter of being an information hog, rather having a specialty that can’t be let go of in these times.

  5. I am able to relate to this article because it also happened to me once before. I had a team mate who doesn’t share what she knew about the processes. Not knowing that she already had the plan of leaving the team.

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