Coworkers who don’t share information are among the most annoying, frustrating, and selfish people I’ve come across in business.
I think you can tell from my tone that I’ve met a few, and it annoyed me.
When someone doesn’t share information at work they are knowingly making everyone else’s jobs more difficult.
That’s almost unforgivable for me!
Here are 5 reasons why some coworkers don’t share information and 5 ways to deal with them:
5 Reasons Why Coworkers Who Don’t Share Information
1. They Don’t Trust Other Coworkers
Hiding or not sharing information often comes down to trust.
If your coworker feels like they have some valuable information but can’t trust other coworkers to use the information how they’d like, they’ll keep it to themselves.
This can be for a variety of reasons.
Maybe they don’t think other coworkers are competent enough to understand the information.
Or, maybe they think other coworkers will run with the information and take credit that they want.
Whatever the case, if your coworker doesn’t trust their other coworkers, they’re likely to cut off communication.
The greater issue is that trust and communication are everything in the workplace.
Without these two things a range of other issues will spiral, which is why dealing with coworkers who don’t share information is so frustrating!
2. They Have Selfish Goals for Themselves
Keeping information to one’s self is often a way of giving oneself a competitive advantage.
If your coworker is looking to move up in the company or get a raise, they may feel like they need to have an edge over their colleagues.
In their mind, if they’re the only one with certain information, it makes them more valuable and therefore more likely to earn a promotion.
While this may be a somewhat understandable motivation (if you put yourself in their shoes), it’s still incredibly selfish.
If this person is part of a team, they’re not being a team player, it’s as simple as that.
3. They Think Knowledge Is Power
Leading on from the last point, there is truth in the old adage “knowledge is power.”
Some people believe that by withholding information they have some sort of power over their colleagues.
This may make them feel good in the short term but in the long run, it will only lead to resentment and a lack of trust.
Furthermore, this way of thinking is outdated and not conducive to a healthy workplace environment.
We know that building a productive working culture is all about collaboration and working together towards a common goal.
Information should be shared freely and not used as a tool for personal gain.
4. They Don’t Realize the Impact of Not Sharing Information
To give them the benefit of the doubt, some people may not realize the impact of not sharing information.
They may think that it’s no big deal or that it’s not their responsibility to share information.
However, not sharing information can have a ripple effect on the whole team.
If one person is not sharing information, it can lead to other people not sharing information.
This can create an environment of mistrust and make it difficult for the team to function properly.
If this is the case, hopefully, a conversation with this person will open their eyes and make them more proactive about sharing information in the future.
5. They’re Trying to Sabotage the Business
This is the most nefarious reason on the list, but it’s also a fairly common reason.
If an employee has become disgruntled with the company or taken personal offense to something and they know withholding information is going to cause problems, they might revel in it.
This is obviously a very toxic way of thinking and can have serious consequences for the business.
If you think an employee is doing this, it’s important to address the issue as soon as possible.
5 Ways to Deal with Coworkers Who Don’t Share Information
1. Confront Them About Their Behavior
The first step to resolving the issue of a coworker withholding information is to confront them about their behavior.
It’s important to do this in a calm and collected manner.
You need to explain to them how their behavior is impacting the team and try to get to the root of the problem.
If they’re honest with you, there may be a perfectly reasonable explanation for their behavior.
However, if they’re not forthcoming or they continue to withhold information, you may need to take further action.
2. Escalate the Issue to Management
Within most companies ‘further action’ means escalating the issue to the person’s manager or the company’s HR department.
This is usually the best course of action as it will allow the company to deal with the issue in a more formal manner.
It’s also important to remember that this is a team issue, not just a personal issue.
By escalating the issue, you’re doing what’s best for the team.
If the person is found to be deliberately withholding information, they may face disciplinary action from the company and hold it against you, but that’s a bridge you’ll have to cross if it happens.
3. Get to Know Them Better and Build Trust
If you don’t want to – or can’t – escalate the issue and aren’t getting anywhere by asking them to be more forthcoming with information, you could play the long game of earning their trust.
Get to know them better, build a rapport with them, and try to understand their motivations.
If you can build trust over time, they may eventually start to share information more freely.
This obviously takes a lot of time and patience, but it could be the best solution in some cases when working with certain personalities.
4. Figure Out Where the Information Is and Go to The Source
If you’re really struggling to get information from a coworker, it may be time to go around them.
There’s no point banging your head against a brick wall – if they’re not going to share information, you’ll just have to find it elsewhere.
Start asking around, see if you can find out who else might know the information you need, or go directly to the source.
This may mean doing a bit of extra work and it’s not ideal, but you’ve got a job to do at the end of the day and if this is what it takes, this is what you’ll have to do.
5. Call Them Out In Front of Others
Something else you can try, although I don’t often recommend this, is to call this coworker out in front of others.
If they’re withholding information that’s needed for a meeting or presentation, for example, ask them directly in front of everyone else.
This may make them feel embarrassed and more likely to start sharing information in the future.
Obviously, this approach won’t work with everyone and you need to be careful not to come across as too aggressive.
It might backfire and make someone more reserved and secretive, or they could even make a complaint against you, so pick your battles carefully!
Image credits – Photo by Sigmund on Unsplash
Phil lives in England, UK, and has around 20 years experience as a professional life, career and executive coach. He started this blog to help others find and define their own self development journey. Blogging about a wide range of topics to help facilitate a better future.