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Information Hoarding

December 9, 2010
As a globalized society we generally accept that more information shared is better. And even in Corporate America where there’s a proprietary angle involved, and so the invidual would never get credit for the work/research anyways, I’ve noticed people tend to keep things to themselves. Information that helps along a project or contacts that would get something done quicker. I’ve seen people hold on to crucial information until the meeting where they can give it up to a high level person. Or demand that they be the point of contact for an outside source at all times, no matter how inefficient that is.
Lower level engineers are generally expected to cross train and share all their progress and results up the ladder. But I keep seeing mid-level people hang on to these updates until they think it will give them the most benefit. A manager will hear it directly from them rather than through the supervisor who might have actually been responsible for the whole project parameters. Then I’ve seen senior people refuse to delegate. They can have a whole army of engineers under them but keep insisting on being the beginning and the end of every task. And that slows things down, and is bad for the project, but obviously people think it’s good for their self interest.
I think young/mid-level engineers are afraid of not getting credit for their work. As well as maybe not realizing how much of the credit is really allowed to their predecessors on the task or their leads and supervisors. And I think more experienced engineers are afraid of becoming irrelevant. But I’m not sure what kind of cajoling, comforting or mind games you’d have to play to convince people to act otherwise. Some people do so naturally of course, but I’m not sure how you’d convince themselves to act counter to what they see as their own self interest for the sake of a project. I suppose it’s the fault of the higher level person who allows it to continue and allows the lower level to bypass hir manager or doesn’t force the senior person to delegate. But then, I think they too benefit from being the choice contact in these situations, so how would you change their incentive?
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