While hoarding as a problem at home is commonly recognised, it can also rear its head in the office leading to negative repercussions such as staff safety and productivity. Hoarding can occur in several ways including physical hoarding of office stationery, space and goods or hoarding of information and knowledge. It is important to decide the best approach only after fully understanding the nature of the problem.

Physical Hoarding Can Pose Major Problems in the Office

Hoarders, whether at home or in the office, have an inability to part with things. Their living and working spaces are inevitably cluttered with all sorts of litter including papers, files, stationery or old food and drink cans. The debris from a hoarder’s cubicle will commonly overflow into his or her colleagues’ spaces and makes the office space untidy.

Others often have to cope with the unsightly mess of books, plants, photographs and other paraphernalia. As a boss, you must consider intervention even if the employee happens to be highly talented or skilled. A disorganised workspace is an eyesore for customers and can also set the wrong example for other workers.

The situation could also present safety problems on a daily basis. For example, employees may slip or trip over wires, cables or other objects lying loose on the floor. Old food and drink containers, for example, may create a stench and also result in unhygienic working conditions for others.

Employees may also hoard office goods like stationary which may cause shortages and that will certainly pose problems for others when there are no pens to be found anywhere!

Possible solutions could include assistance arranging their workspace and disposing off unwanted items. They may genuinely require more room to carry out their duties and not suffer from hoarding at all. Hoarding is a psychological issue so if it is practical or appropriate some professional assistance such as therapy would benefit the employee.

Information and Knowledge Hoarding

This is a far more serious form of hoarding and much more common than we realise. Employees hoard information for a variety of reasons out of which insecurity is the most prominent. They often feel territorial of the information they possess and feel that sharing information will undermine their importance at work.

They also fear that other ambitious employees will get undue credit that takes away from their own hard work. Many of these assumptions are founded on baseless fears but information hoarding is often fuelled by helpless self-doubt and resentment.

Knowledge hoarding is usually practised by toxic employees and is aimed at maintaining or establishing power in the workplace. This behaviour is often synonymous with power hoarding.

Tell-Tale Signs of Information Hoarding

Observant bosses can pick up on some more obvious signs that information hoarding is taking place. If new hires are constantly asking nuanced versions of the same questions, it’s a sign that they’re not getting the full answers they need. A lot of valuable time is lost when employees are forced to ask repeatedly for information that should already have been made available to them.

Hoarders may deliberately ignore verbal or written requests for information, leave out certain employees from a communication loop or deny access to electronically stored data. They may also assign tasks that are impossible to complete or withhold access to powerful people in senior management. In extreme cases, a power hoarder can sabotage performance results or withhold credit for someone else’s ideas.

How to Handle a Knowledge or Information Hoarder

Power and information hoarders can be devious and it may not always be easy to investigate the problem even after it has been identified.

One way to tackle the issue is to keep all important knowledge in a centralised place. This could include phone etiquette tips, email templates, accounting procedures, holiday policies and customer email addresses. This way everyone has access to the information they want and no employee is in a position to hoard information to themselves.

Speak directly to the offending employee but make sure to collect as much evidence as possible before communicating with them. Consider incorporating knowledge sharing into your company culture and use empowering communication tools such as messenger apps or intranet software that connect your employees immediately and keep them on the same page.

Our trusted team at ESN specialises in identifying, evaluating and offering effective solutions for your corporate requirements. Our team of psychologists and HR professionals leverage their experience for your benefit and are happy to offer fair, impartial and empowering solutions to improve employee wellbeing. We offer well planned strategies and support to organisations looking to create congenial and productive workspaces.

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