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Knowledge hiding prevents colleagues from generating creative ideas, but it may also have negative consequences for the creativity of the knowledge hider. Drawing on social exchange theory, we propose that when employees hide knowledge, they trigger a reciprocal distrust loop in which coworkers are unwilling to share knowledge with them. We further suggest that these effects are contingent on the motivational climate such that the negative effects of hiding knowledge on one’s own creativity are enhanced in a performance climate and attenuated in a mastery climate. A field study of 240 employees, nested into 34 groups, revealed a negative relationship between knowledge hiding and the knowledge hider’s creativity as well as the moderating role of a mastery climate. Study 2 replicated these findings in an experimental study of 132 undergraduate students, testing a reciprocal distrust loop and comparing it with an alternative intra-psychic explanatory process based on situational regulatory focus. Implications for practice and future research are discussed.
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What goes around comes
around: Knowledge hiding,
perceived motivational climate, and creativity
Journal:
Academy of Management Journal
Manuscript ID:
AMJ-2012-0122.R3
Manuscript Type:
Revision
Keyword:
Creativity < Behavior < Organizational Behavior < Topic Areas,
Deviance/counterproductive behaviors < Behavior < Organizational
Behavior < Topic Areas, Survey < Quantitative Orientation < Research
Methods, Lab experiment < Quantitative Orientation < Research Methods,
Multi-level (e.g., HLM, WABA, RCM) < Analysis < Research Methods,
Motivation < Attitudes, Cognitions, and Affect < Organizational Behavior <
Topic Areas
Abstract:
Knowledge hiding prevents colleagues from generating creative ideas, but
it may also have negative consequences for the creativity of the knowledge
hider. Drawing on social exchange theory, we propose that when
employees hide knowledge, they trigger a reciprocal distrust loop in which
coworkers are unwilling to share knowledge with them. We further suggest
that these effects are contingent on the motivational climate such that the
negative effects of hiding knowledge on one’s own creativity are enhanced
in a performance climate and attenuated in a mastery climate. A field study
of 240 employees, nested into 34 groups, revealed a negative relationship
between knowledge hiding and the knowledge hider’s creativity as well as
the moderating role of a mastery climate. Study 2 replicated these findings
in an experimental study of 132 undergraduate students, testing a
reciprocal distrust loop and comparing it with an alternative intra-psychic
explanatory process based on situational regulatory focus. Implications for
practice and future research are discussed.
Academy of Management Journal
1
What Goes Around Comes Around: Knowledge Hiding,
Perceived Motivational Climate, and Creativity
MATEJ ČERNE
The Centre of Excellence for Biosensors,
Instrumentation, and Process control -
COBIK
Open Innovation Systems Lab
Velika pot 22, Solkan, 5250, Slovenia
Tel: (+386) 31570-835
e-mail: matej.cerne@ef.uni-lj.si
CHRISTINA G. L. NERSTAD
BI Norwegian Business School
Department of Leadership and Organizational
Behaviour
Nydalsveien 37, Oslo, 0484, Norway
Tel: (+47) 46410-758
e-mail: christina.g.l.nerstad@bi.no
ANDERS DYSVIK
BI Norwegian Business School
Department of Leadership and
Organizational Behaviour
Nydalsveien 37, Oslo, 0484, Norway
Tel: (+47) 46410-713
e-mail: anders.dysvik@bi.no
MIHA ŠKERLAVAJ
Faculty of Economics University of Ljubljana
Department of Management and Organisation
Kardeljeva ploščad 17, Ljubljana, 1000,
Slovenia
Tel: (+386) 15892-467
e-mail: miha.skerlavaj@ef.uni-lj.si
We are grateful to Associate Editor Adam Grant and three anonymous reviewers for helpful
developmental feedback and suggestions. We would also like to thank John Sumanth for a
friendly review, and Marko Jaklič and the respondents from two companies for help with the
field study. We are grateful to participants at the Faculty of Economics Ljubljana University
(FELU) and Robert Kaše for help with the experimental study. We also thank all participants
at FELU and BI research seminars, and AoM annual meeting 2012 attendees for their
comments. We offer special thanks to Darija Aleksić, Sabina Bogilović and Ivan Župič for
help with the creative requirement and creative output ratings. This work was supported by
the European Union, European Regional Development Fund and Republic of Slovenia,
Ministry of Education, Science, Culture and Sport, as The Centre of Excellence for
Biosensors, Instrumentation and Process Control is an operation financed by these entities.
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ABSTRACT
Knowledge hiding prevents colleagues from generating creative ideas, but it may also have
negative consequences for the creativity of the knowledge hider. Drawing on social exchange
theory, we propose that when employees hide knowledge, they trigger a reciprocal distrust
loop in which coworkers are unwilling to share knowledge with them. We further suggest that
these effects are contingent on the motivational climate such that the negative effects of
hiding knowledge on one’s own creativity are enhanced in a performance climate and
attenuated in a mastery climate. A field study of 240 employees, nested into 34 groups,
revealed a negative relationship between knowledge hiding and the knowledge hider’s
creativity as well as the moderating role of a mastery climate. Study 2 replicated these
findings in an experimental study of 132 undergraduate students, testing a reciprocal distrust
loop and comparing it with an alternative intra-psychic explanatory process based on
situational regulatory focus. Implications for practice and future research are discussed.
Keywords: Knowledge hiding, creativity, mastery climate, performance climate
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WHAT GOES AROUND COMES AROUND: KNOWLEDGE HIDING, PERCEIVED
MOTIVATIONAL CLIMATE, AND CREATIVITY
Scholars and practitioners share a strong interest in understanding factors that may help to
engage employees in creativity, formally defined as the generation of novel and potentially
useful ideas (Amabile, 1983; Shalley, 1991). Creativity has been established as a fundamental
driver that serves as a basis for individuals, groups, and organizations to pursue innovative
efforts. In turn, meta-analytic evidence and numerous studies identify innovation as crucial in
improving performance and achieving continuous competitive advantage (e.g., Liao & Rice,
2010; Rosenbusch, Brinckmann, & Bausch, 2011). How to stimulate creative behavior in the
workplace is therefore a highly relevant issue. Yet, understanding the factors that drive
creativity and their interplay remains a significant agenda for researchers (Shalley & Zhou,
2008).
In particular, the impact of knowledge sharing on employees’ creative behavior is a heavily
discussed topic within creativity research (e.g., Perry-Smith, 2006; Perry-Smith & Shalley,
2003). Employees must be motivated to share their knowledge in order to facilitate creative
processes with others (Perry-Smith, 2006), which explains why the majority of research to
date focuses on factors that might increase employees’ knowledge sharing. Although
knowledge sharing certainly represents a competitive asset in terms of creativity (Perry-
Smith, 2006), knowledge hiding—an intentional attempt to conceal or to withhold knowledge
that others have requested—may represent a threat to beneficial outcomes (Connelly, Zweig,
Webster, & Trougakos, 2012) such as creativity. Connelly et al. (2012) argue that knowledge
hiding is different from a lack of knowledge sharing because in addition to the omission of
knowledge sharing, it also incorporates an intent to withhold knowledge that someone else
has requested. Analogous to the fact that knowledge sharing enhances the creativity of
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coworkers (e.g., Perry-Smith, 2006), intentionally hiding knowledge should inhibit the
creativity of coworkers.
To date, however, knowledge hiding processes and outcomes within specific situations
remain largely unexplored (Connelly et al., 2012). Specifically, it is unclear how knowledge
hiding will affect the creativity of the knowledge hider. Drawing on social exchange theory
(Blau, 1964), the norm of reciprocity (Gouldner, 1960), and the importance of interpersonal
dynamics for knowledge hiding (Connelly & Kelloway, 2003), we posit that a distrust loop
occurs between the knowledge hider and seeker. Namely, when employee A intentionally
hides knowledge from employee B (who has requested it and is hence aware of the fact that
hiding has occurred), this backfires on employee A. Due to the distrust created, employee B
wants to retaliate and also hides knowledge from employee A. This, in turn, inhibits the
creativity of the initial knowledge hider (employee A).
If knowledge hiding impedes employee creativity, organizations and managers need to
identify how to mitigate this effect. We propose that the extant criteria of success and failure
in the work environment, also conceptualized as the perceived motivational (mastery and
performance) climate (Ames, 1992a; Ames, 1992b; Nicholls, 1989), can affect the social
exchange patterns that develop in the distrust loop (Poortvliet & Giebels, 2012). For example,
employees who are placed in a motivational climate characterized by social comparison and
intra-team competition (i.e., performance climate) may reciprocate in response to knowledge
hiding in order to gain some competitive advantage for them, thereby hurting the initial
knowledge hider’s creativity. On the other hand, when placed in a motivational climate that
values employees’ efforts, self-development, cooperation, and learning (i.e., mastery climate),
employees may view reciprocal knowledge hiding as a destructive behavior that impedes the
mutual benefit of knowledge exchange and creativity in their work group. We therefore
propose that the creativity costs that the knowledge hider faces are more pronounced within a
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performance climate and attenuated within a mastery climate. We test our hypotheses in two
studies using both field and experimental data.
Our theoretical point of view and empirical findings offer significant contributions to the
creativity and knowledge management literature, respectively. First, we aim to answer calls to
enrich knowledge about social influences on creativity (e.g., Grant & Berry, 2011; Perry-
Smith, 2006) by introducing a distrust loop mechanism to the knowledge hiding-creativity
relationship. The very actions deemed by knowledge hiders as self-protective can backfire in
undermining their own creativity. Second, the context has been deemed important for both
knowledge hiding (Connelly et al., 2012) and creativity (Byron, Khazanchi, & Nazarian,
2010; Hammond, Neff, Farr, Schwall, & Zhao, 2011; Hirst, Van Knippenberg, & Zhou, 2009;
Zhou, Hirst, & Shipton, 2012). We therefore explore how mastery and performance climates
may influence the distrust loop differently by affecting the social exchange patterns among
exchange partners (cf., Poortvliet & Giebels, 2012). In practice, our research should help to
explain why many creative initiatives in work organizations fail (Alencar, 2012) and what
management can do about it.
KNOWLEDGE HIDING AND CREATIVITY
Although it should be understood and examined as a complex and ambiguous concept
(Runco, 2008), creativity deals with idea generation or exploration as interpreted within a
particular social context (Shalley & Zhou, 2008). Next to its intrapsychic origins (e.g., Barron
& Harrington, 1981), creativity in itself is an important part of interpersonal processes
(Amabile, 1983; Woodman, Sawyer, & Griffin, 1993). The generation of creative ideas is
often the result of grouping novel combinations of the varied perspectives and approaches to
which people are exposed via social interactions (Allen, 1977; Perry-Smith, 2006; Perry-
Smith & Shalley, 2003). Consequently, creativity is very much dependent on information and
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knowledge sharing (Amabile, 1997) and thus may be crucially influenced by knowledge
hiding.
A social exchange relationship between coworkers facilitates knowledge sharing (Wang &
Noe, 2010) and, in turn, enhances creative performance because mere exposure to diverse
alternatives can trigger the use of wider mental processes and generate more divergent
solutions (Kanter, 1988). In addition, such a relationship increases the ability to generate,
validate, and determine the appropriateness of potential solutions (Perry-Smith & Shalley,
2003) between trusting group members (Wang & Noe, 2010). A reduction in knowledge
sharing will lessen people’s ability to generate creative ideas (Bartol & Srivastava, 2002) and
to critically evaluate their value to the group and/or organization. Creativity requires
information about a problem and a certain degree of prior knowledge regarding the task at
hand (Amabile, 1983). Thus, knowledge hiding may prevent employees from collecting the
existing concepts they require to create new concepts (Reiter-Palmon & Illies, 2004). This
may have a critical damaging influence in contexts in which creativity is important. In this
way, it could embody a significant but thus far neglected explanation of why successful
creativity enhancement initiatives are lacking in organizations.
The aforementioned argument seems reasonable in cases in which others hide knowledge.
We argue, however, that the very same individual who exhibits higher levels of knowledge
hiding will experience a decrease in creativity. Nevertheless, like Connelly et al. (2012), who
allude to the importance of social relations for work in predicting knowledge hiding, we
explore this construct and its outcome in the form of dyadic creativity. The main explanatory
mechanism we propose for the knowledge-hiding creativity relationship is of an interpersonal
nature and is linked to social exchange and the norm of reciprocity (Gouldner, 1960) within
groups of people. Reciprocity is a moral norm, one of the universal principal components of
moral codes within social systems (Gouldner, 1960). Interactions between coworkers are
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generally governed by an unspoken and inexplicit social exchange (Blau, 1964). Positive
relationships will draw on norms of reciprocity and expectations of trust, honesty, mutual aid,
and equal mutual exchange of privileges (Settoon, Bennett, & Liden, 1996). A person who
voluntarily and spontaneously engages in one positive behavior toward another person will
implicitly invoke a similar reciprocal behavior.
Naturally, negative reciprocity is also present within organizational settings. When a
person perceives negative behavior or misbehavior (cf., Vardi & Weitz, 2004), such as
intentional information withholding, he or she develops a basic mindset of distrust—that is, a
lack of confidence in the other and/or a concern that the other may act to harm him or her
(Grovier, 1994). Distrust toward one person in a dyad leads the other person to reciprocate the
behavior (Gouldner, 1960). Empirical evidence has shown that employees frequently engage
in reciprocating counterproductive work behavior because this simply makes them feel better
(Tepper, Mitchell, & Almeda, 2011) or to punish unfair actors in a social setting (Kahneman,
Knetsch, & Thaler, 1986). This refers to the fundamental need to believe in a just world and
to restore justice when norms or rules are violated (Lerner, 1980)—for example, when
coworkers hide knowledge. Connelly et al. (2012) suggest that the history of reciprocity
among colleagues may affect the likelihood of an employee’s engaging in hiding behaviors.
In other words, employees hide knowledge from those whom they distrust, which predicts
future intentions to withhold knowledge (Connelly et al., 2012). Consistent with the concept
of negative reciprocity, returning “harm” to those who are responsible for performing
negative acts helps to insure the stability of social systems (Gouldner, 1960) because it
discourages future negative actions.
We propose that the described reciprocal distrust loop applies to situations in which an
employee requires knowledge and information in order to facilitate or to enhance the creative
process—for example, new ideas, knowledge about some aspect of work processes, or further
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insight or understanding of work-related phenomena. Individuals whose requests for
assistance in their creative quests are rejected should reciprocate and hide knowledge in
return. When a coworker is denied knowledge and he or she is able to recognize intentional
knowledge hiding, a feeling of distrust is induced. In turn, such acts within a coworker dyad
underlie ineffective social exchanges (Blau, 1964)—in other words, reciprocated rejections of
assistance or knowledge disclosure. The norm of reciprocity (Gouldner, 1960) suggests that
knowledge seekers who experienced knowledge hiding are more likely to retaliate against the
knowledge hider. When the initial knowledge hider requires knowledge in order to be
creative, the initial knowledge seeker is more likely to withhold information. In turn, the
initial knowledge hider would be denied access to a portion of alternatives, example solutions,
or any potentially relevant ideas with which he or she would be more likely to make
connections that could lead to creativity (Amabile, Conti, Coon, Lazenby, & Herron, 1996).
The reciprocal distrust loop, an interpersonal mechanism related to dyadic interaction and
dyadic social exchange, is focal to our study and has also been mentioned and briefly
described by Connelly et al. (2012) as a salient factor for knowledge hiding. The reciprocal
distrust loop underlying our hypotheses 1 and 2 is shown in Figure 1.
Hypothesis 1. Knowledge hiding is negatively related to the knowledge hider’s creativity.
Hypothesis 2. Coworker’s distrust mediates the negative relationship between knowledge
hiding and the knowledge hider’s creativity.
----------------------------------
Insert Figure 1 about here
-----------------------------------
THE MODERATING ROLE OF PERCEIVED MOTIVATIONAL CLIMATE
The achievement context in which employees perform their everyday tasks plays an
essential role in an employee’s decision to hide or share knowledge (Connelly et al., 2012).
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The motivational climate at work, as defined by traditional achievement goal theory (AGT;
Ames, 1992a; Nicholls, 1984, 1989), represents such a context in that it refers to employees’
shared perceptions of the extant criteria of success and failure emphasized through the
policies, practices, and procedures of the work environment (Nerstad, Roberts, & Richardsen,
in press). Such climate perceptions help employees to understand what behaviors (i.e.,
knowledge hiding and creativity) are expected and rewarded (Schulte, Ostroff, Shmulyian, &
Kinicki, 2009). The motivational climate consists of two dimensions: a mastery climate and a
performance climate. A mastery climate refers to situations that support effort and
cooperation, and it emphasizes learning, mastery, and skill development (Ames, 1992a;
Ames, 1992b; Nicholls, 1989). Such a climate has been found to promote more adaptive
behaviors such as better performance, higher levels of work engagement, additional effort,
and persistence in the face of difficulty (Nerstad et al., in press; Ntoumanis & Biddle, 1999;
Roberts, 2012).
In contrast, a performance climate refers to situations that emphasize normative criteria of
success (Nicholls, 1984, 1989; Roberts, 2012). In such a climate, normative ability, social
comparison, and intra-team competition are emphasized (Ames & Ames, 1984; Ntoumanis &
Biddle, 1999). Therefore, only those who are the best achievers are acknowledged as
successful (Ames, 1984). Individuals in such conditions of forced social comparison are
overwhelmed with comparative information [i.e., ability grouping, verbal comparisons]
(Ames & Ames, 1984; Levine, 1983). A negative interdependence among employees may
then develop because outperforming coworkers is their goal (Ames & Ames, 1984). A
performance climate has been found to promote maladaptive outcomes such as poorer
performance, performance anxiety, lower persistence, controlled motivation, and turnover
intentions (Abrahamsen, Roberts, & Pensgaard, 2008; Nerstad et al., in press; Ntoumanis &
Biddle, 1999). We propose that employees’ shared perceptions of a mastery climate or
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performance climate are likely to influence how coworkers behave in social exchange
situations (c.f., Janssen & Van Yperen, 2004; Poortvliet & Giebels, 2012).
With respect to the relationship between knowledge hiding and creativity, our basic
premise is that a mastery climate may override the adherence to reciprocity norms that result
in coworkers’ distrust and consequent reciprocal knowledge hiding. In line with theory and
empirical findings on employees who are placed in cooperative situations (e.g., Beersma et
al., 2003), a mastery climate should create perceptions of a shared fate and promote
supportive behavior whereby each group member looks out for the interests of the coworkers
in addition to his or her own. Thus, insights and lessons that one member learns are shared so
that others can also benefit from their knowledge accumulation (Beersma et al., 2003;
Johnson et al., 2006). Employees in a mastery climate should not consider knowledge hiding a
beneficial option because such a behavior will not assist them in developing their capabilities
and in improving the quality of their knowledge (Swift, Balkin, & Matusik, 2010).
As knowledge sharing and information exchange are more likely to be supported in a
mastery climate, such a climate can reduce the motive for reciprocal knowledge hiding and
instead help to further stimulate creativity. In a mastery climate, even if a coworker hides
knowledge, the norms of information sharing and cooperation should prevent distrust and lead
employees to share knowledge anyway. While a mastery climate is based on cooperation,
information exchange (Ames & Archer, 1988), and an atmosphere of trust (Ommundsen,
Roberts, Lemyre, & Treasure, 2003), knowledge-hiding behavior may not be reciprocated
because negative reciprocity is not in line with the behavior required for success at work.
Succeeding in helping both others and themselves while developing skills and contributing to
knowledge enhancement at work (Matzler & Müller, 2011) is an important criteria of success
for employees that overrides the reciprocal norms in response to knowledge hiding. Thus, the
focus of self-improvement in a mastery climate may motivate individuals to cooperate with
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coworkers in social exchange situations (Poortvliet & Giebels, 2012). Thus, a mastery climate
will likely attenuate the negative relationship between knowledge hiding and creativity. We
therefore hypothesize:
Hypothesis 3. A perceived mastery climate moderates the relationship between
knowledge hiding and creativity. The higher the perceived mastery climate, the less
negative the relationship.
In a performance climate, success requires an inherent focus on outperforming coworkers
(Ames & Archer, 1988; Pensgaard & Roberts, 2002). As such behavior is signaled to be
expected, rewarded, and publicly recognized, employees should be more inclined to
reciprocally hide knowledge. This tendency toward reciprocity is possibly due to increased
motivation to maximize their own payoff relative to their coworkers (Poortvliet & Giebels,
2012), and they can achieve that by hiding knowledge. Because success is often evaluated via
social comparisons, hiding knowledge may give employees a competitive edge and a better
chance of winning, which, in a performance climate, is seen as the most important objective
(Cumming, Smoll, Smith, & Grossbard, 2007; Nicholls, 1989).
Therefore, in a performance climate, employees may be more prone to protecting their own
performance by withholding knowledge from others and thus impair the progress of
colleagues in an effort to gain positive competitive advantage (Beersma et al., 2003). In this
way, a performance climate strengthens adherence to reciprocity norms in response to
knowledge hiding. Because a performance climate is more likely to facilitate low concern for
coworkers’ outcomes (Poortvliet & Giebels, 2012), reciprocating knowledge-hiding behavior
may be perceived as a smart strategy for outperforming social exchange partners. In turn, this
results in even more adversely reciprocated knowledge hiding and, consequently, an inability
of the initial knowledge hider to obtain information relevant to his or her creative process at
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work. Based on this enhancing effect of a perceived performance climate, we hypothesize the
following:
Hypothesis 4. A perceived performance climate moderates the relationship between
knowledge hiding and creativity. The higher the perceived performance climate, the
more negative the relationship.
We first test hypotheses 1, 3 and 4 in the field Study 1. To address the limitations of the
field study (Study 1) as well as to test the reciprocal distrust loop (examining a colleague’s
distrust as a mediator between knowledge hiding and one’s own creativity, Hypothesis 2)
using dyadic experimental data, we conduct an experimental Study 2. Figure 2 depicts the
relationships among the focal constructs tested in both studies.
----------------------------------
Insert Figure 2 about here
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STUDY 1: METHODS
Sample and Procedures
Empirical data were collected from 240 employees and their 34 direct supervisors in two
Slovenian companies in August, September, and October 2011. In order to avoid problems
with common method bias, data were collected using two separate questionnaires: one for the
employees and the other for their supervisors, who assessed employee creativity. A
translation-back translation procedure (Brislin, 1986) was used to translate the scales from
English to Slovenian and then back to English. It should be noted that our sample only
included employees who possess a job e-mail address and can be divided into teams with a
particular supervisor, not the production workers. The members of these groups are more
likely to produce creative ideas in the surveyed companies. All of the groups that met the
aforementioned criteria participated in the survey. The work process in these groups is such
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that the members are encouraged to come up with creative ideas, which are later implemented
with the help of the group. Within the groups, creativity (i.e., generation of novel and useful
ideas) is usually carried out individually.
The first company is an aluminum manufacturer that employs about 800 people. Its motto
is to produce the “aluminum of the future,” and it manufactures foundries, evaporators, and
castings, but it is also becoming increasingly involved in designing power stations and
providing advanced laboratory measurement services. The second company functions within
the metal processing industry and employs about 2,200 people. It deals with modern-day
blacksmithing and is vested in producing innovative products made from raw metal. With
almost 100 years of experience, it has evolved from ironmongery and manufacturing metal
products to using modern materials and innovative technologies.
Examples of ideas rated as highly creative in these two companies included solar power
stations, a monitoring program for the discharge of effluents, innovative metal bike
handlebars, nano-based coatings for metal products, and radically redesigning the assembly
line to be more sustainable and eco-friendly. Examples of ideas rated less creative included
redesigning the casting model, optimizing a cooling system, developing a new functional
hand tool, adding a new hook to the hand tool to provide it with a new function, and
implementing a new quality assurance protocol.
The average response rate per group was 7.06 employees, whereas the number of direct
reports per group supervisor who answered ranged from three to 21. If we take into
consideration only the 34 groups that participated (not other employees in the companies), we
achieved a 55.3% response rate for supervisors’ direct reports (within-group response rates
ranged from 25% to 100%). About 65% of the participants were male, and about 45% were
between 35 years of age and 45 years of age (SD = 7.01). A total of 41% of respondents
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reported having less than seven years of work experience (SD = 8.43), and 40% reported less
than three years of working with a particular supervisor (dyad tenure: SD = 5.43).
Measures
Unless otherwise noted, seven-point Likert-type scales ranging from 1 (“strongly
disagree”) to 7 (“strongly agree”) were used in this study.
Knowledge hiding. Knowledge hiding was self-reported and assessed with a 12-item scale
developed by Connelly et al. (2012)—α = .89. The scale opens with the following statement:
“In a specific episode in which a particular coworker requested knowledge from you and you
declined.” It further includes items such as I pretended I did not know what s/he was talking
about.” A recent meta-analysis (Berry, Carpenter, & Barratt, 2012) showed that self-reported
counterproductive work behavior, such as knowledge hiding, actually captures a broader
subset of this behavior than other-reported behaviors do, which supports the use of self-
reported measures.
Creativity. Creativity was measured according to a 13-item questionnaire developed by
Zhou and George (2001)—α = .95, which includes items such as “He/she is not afraid to take
risks” and “He/she is a good source of creative ideas.” Supervisors reported on these items.
As identical behaviors may be considered innovative or creative in one organizational context
and unsettling or disruptive in another (Agars, Kaufman, & Locke, 2008), perceptual
measures were used because they enable the most relevant subjective assessments about
domain-specific creativity from the actors involved in the social setting in which the creativity
process is taking place.
Perceived motivational climate. The perceived motivational climate (mastery climate and
performance climate) was measured using a 14-item instrument developed by Nerstad et al.
(in press)—α = .79 for mastery climate and α =.84 for performance climate. The scale asks
how employees perceive the definition of success in their work situations and opens with the
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following statement: “In my department/work group.” It then allows the respondents to assess
mastery (i.e., “Each individual’s learning and development is emphasized”) and performance
(i.e., “There exists a competitive rivalry among the employees”) climate. Mastery and
performance climate ratings from the subordinates who belonged to the same group were
aggregated at the group level and averaged to obtain a single score for each group.
To validate the aggregation of individual-level measures of mastery climate and
performance climate on the group level, we calculated the intraclass correlations (ICCs) and
multi-item within-group agreement (r
wg(J)
). The average r
wg(6)
for mastery climate (a slightly
skewed shape) was .83, ranging from .65 to .99, whereas ICC(1) was .16, and ICC(2) was .45
(F = 1.86, p = .012). The average r
wg(8)
for performance climate (also a slightly skewed shape)
was .84, ranging from .63 to .96, with ICC(1) at .21 and ICC(2) at .56 (F = 2.36, p = .001). As
James (1982) indicated, ICC(1) generally ranges from zero to .50 with a median of .12. The
values obtained in our study are above this median and indicate that significant between-
group variances exist in perceived motivational climate. However, no definite guidelines exist
for determining acceptable values. Even if no such thing as a critical cutoff exists for r
wg(J)
estimates, the traditional heuristic cutoff recommended for aggregation is .70 (James,
Demaree, & Wolf, 1984; Lance, Butts, & Michels, 2006). Given our research question and
efforts to aggregate measures regarding the motivational climate in a group as perceived by
employees, we proceeded to create aggregate measures of a perceived mastery climate and
performance climate. Because a perceived group climate reflects employees’ shared
perceptions, an aggregated measure for climate may be the best way to examine its
relationship with knowledge hiding (Connelly et al., 2012).
Control variables. Not all jobs require the same amount of creative behavior and output.
Numerous studies argue in favor of the situational component of creativity (e.g., Amabile,
1988; Amabile et al., 1996; Unsworth, Wall, & Carter, 2005; Woodman et al., 1993). Thus,
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we controlled for the creative requirement for a particular position. This is a variable that was
set up by an independent human resource management expert who was blind to the measures
and the purpose of our study. He did so by evaluating the creativity required in the
respondents’ different job types on a scale from “1 = not creative at all to 7 = very creative”
based on the job title, job description, and the job’s placement within the organizational
structure.
STUDY 1: RESULTS
Descriptive Statistics, Validity, and Reliability
Table 1 provides descriptive statistics for all variables analyzed in this study. We began by
observing the factor structure of the focal variables and thus conducted a multilevel
confirmatory factor analysis using AMOS 17 software with maximum likelihood estimation
procedures. The expected four-factor solution (creativity, knowledge hiding, mastery climate,
and performance climate) displayed adequate fit with the data (Chi-square [703] = 1594.88,
CFI = .975, SRMR = .039). The factor loadings ranged from .72 to .88 for the creativity
items, .65 to .89 for the knowledge-hiding items, .70 to .89 for the mastery climate items, and
.72 to .89 for the performance climate items.
----------------------------------
Insert Table 1 about here
----------------------------------
Multilevel Analysis Results
The dataset consisted of two hierarchically nested levels: 240 employees (level-1) nested
within 34 groups (level-2), which all had one group supervisor. We used hierarchical linear
modeling (random coefficient modeling) to test the following aspects of our multilevel model:
(1) the existence of a multilevel structure; (2) the level-1 relationship between knowledge
hiding and the knowledge hider’s creativity; (3) the cross-level effect of mastery and
performance climate on creativity; and (4) the interaction effects between knowledge hiding,
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creativity, and the perceived motivational climate. Supervisory ratings of creativity violated
the independence assumption (that is, each supervisor provided ratings of creativity for
multiple employees). This justified our use of random coefficient modeling as an appropriate
strategy for analyzing the cross-level effects of various constructs on individual creativity.
To test our hypotheses, we developed a set of multilevel models based on theoretical
predictions by using the incremental improvement procedure that Hox (2010) demonstrated.
The fixed effects with robust standard errors for all models are presented in Table 2. We
started with the intercept-only model, which uses individual employee creativity as the
dependent variable (Model 1).
----------------------------------
Insert Table 2 about here
-----------------------------------
First, we added knowledge hiding as a level-1 predictor of creativity. The results show
(supporting Hypothesis 1) that knowledge hiding is negatively and significantly related to
creativity (Model 2: γ = -.21, SE = .04, p < .01). Creativity required for position, a control
variable in the model, was also significantly related to creativity (Model 2: γ = .52, SE = .04,
p < .01). For multilevel model estimation, although this is difficult to assess precisely in
cross-level models, we report Snijders and Bosker’s (1999) overall pseudo R
2
for each model.
These estimates are based on a proportional reduction of level 1 and level 2 errors owed to
predictions in the model. We also report deviance estimations for all models.
To test the cross-level main effects of motivational climate, we added both mastery and
performance climate (Model 3). We examined the coefficients of corresponding parameters
estimated in the models. Model 4 deals with the interaction effects of motivational climate
types and knowledge hiding on employee creativity. We examined interaction effects between
knowledge hiding and a mastery climate to see whether a mastery climate might soften the
negative effect of knowledge hiding on creativity. The results revealed a significant positive
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interaction between knowledge hiding and a mastery climate (γ = .17, SE = .08, p < .05).
These effects are shown in Figure 3 and indicate that in groups in which employees perceive
higher levels of a mastery climate, the slope demonstrating the relationship between
knowledge hiding and employee creativity is less negative. To test this interpretation, we
statistically compared the slopes of both lines to zero. Knowledge hiding predicted lower
levels of creativity when the mastery climate was low (γ = -.39, SE = .09, t = -2.99, p < .01)
but not when it was high (γ = -.01, SE = .08, t = -.03, ns), thus supporting Hypothesis 3.
----------------------------------
Insert Figure 3 about here
-----------------------------------
Also in Model 4, we examined the interaction effect between knowledge hiding and a
performance climate. The interaction effect was only marginally significant (γ = -.12, SE =
.06, p = .07). The interaction effects between knowledge hiding and a performance climate on
employee creativity are nevertheless shown in Figure 4. The depicted pattern indicates that
within groups in which employees perceive higher levels of a performance climate, the slope
demonstrating the relationship between knowledge hiding and employee creativity is more
negative. The statistical comparison of the slopes of both lines to zero revealed that they were
both significantly different from zero (ώ = -.14, SE = .07, t = -2.38, p < .05 for high
performance climate and ώ = -.10, SE = .06, t = -1.99, p < .05 for low performance climate).
These results provide marginal support for Hypothesis 4.
1
----------------------------------
Insert Figure 4 about here
1
When the creative requirement control variable is omitted from the analyses, all of the hypothesized main and
interaction effects in the models increase, but their statistical significance levels remain the same. We also
conducted an exploratory three-way interaction analysis of the interaction among knowledge hiding, a mastery
climate, and a performance climate in predicting creativity, which was not significant (Model 5: three-way
interaction term = .01, SE = .00, ns). We also examined the creativity scale’s idea generation and idea
implementation items (Zhou & George, 2001) separately in the analyses; the results are not significantly
different.
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-----------------------------------
STUDY 1: DISCUSSION
A couple of factors and limitations need to be taken into account when interpreting the
results of Study 1. First, as Connelly et al. (2012) state, knowledge hiding may be a relatively
under-reported low-base-rate event. It might also be obvious to the respondents that
knowledge hiding is not a desirable behavior and thus may be underreported on questionnaire
surveys. Any other-reported survey would not be accurate, however, as it is difficult to ask
supervisors or coworkers to assess an employee’s knowledge-hiding behaviors when, by
definition, the actions involved would be concealed (Connelly et al., 2012). Besides, meta-
analytical data suggest that other-reported assessments of counterproductive work behavior do
not capture unique and valid incremental variance beyond self-reporting and even assess such
behavior more narrowly (Berry et al., 2012).
Second, not only is the relationship between knowledge hiding and creativity dependent
upon motivational climate but also perceived mastery and performance climates may act as
antecedents to knowledge hiding. Furthermore, reverse causality between knowledge hiding
and creativity is also plausible; less creative employees may be more inclined to hide
knowledge since they have more difficulty with generating novel and useful ideas.
Third, the perception of creativity might differ among employees who conduct tasks that
require varying levels of creative behaviors (Hennessey & Amabile, 2010). One task might
require a great amount of creative behavior, whereas another might require none. We
controlled for the expertise that undeniably plays a role in perceptions of creativity as well as
for creativity required in a position but could not effectively control for the influence of tasks
as such (cf., Wood, 1986).
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Fourth, the social explanatory mechanism of the reciprocal distrust loop depends heavily
on dyadic interaction among coworkers. We were not able to collect sequential data on one
employee’s knowledge hiding, subsequent distrust of his or her coworker, and whether or not
this is the factor that predicts the first employee’s diminished levels of creativity. We also
could not assess perceived knowledge hiding and adequately test the proposed distrust loop,
nor did we compare this mediator with other mechanisms of a more intrapsychic nature that
can also be important in explaining the basic relationship between knowledge hiding and
creativity.
Connelly et al. (2012) declared that the motivations for knowledge hiding mostly lie in
their interpersonal ties and in the nature of preceding relations with coworkers. However,
other motivations might also be valid. For example, an employee may engage in knowledge
hiding to protect themselves when the employee’s ideas are highly novel and could be subject
to criticism or even ridicule or simply in an attempt to preserve his or her advantage relative
to coworkers based on the specific knowledge he or she possesses. In both cases, the
employee would decide to intentionally hide knowledge and activate a prevention focus. This
is a regulatory focus that originates from the survival need for security and self-protection,
whose desired end state is safety (Higgins, 1997). When hiding knowledge, an individual
might feel safer because his or her coworkers would not be able to discover and exploit his or
her weaknesses if all information was disclosed. Thus, the employee’s coworkers would not
be able to use the knowledge that the employee possesses for their own advantage and against
that employee in a competitive work environment. In turn, prevention focus is known to
decrease creativity (cf. Baas, De Dreu, & Nijstad, 2008). Individuals in prevention focus are
focused on safety (Lanaj, Chang, & Johnson, 2012); as creativity is risky and holds potentially
negative outcomes, they would avoid being creative. Based on this logic, prevention focus
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acts as an alternative mechanism in mediating the knowledge hiding-creativity relationship,
which we expect to offer unique insight into the examined relationship without prevailing
over the social mediating mechanism of a reciprocal distrust loop.
STUDY 2: METHODS
To strengthen causal inferences and to rule out alternative explanations, as well as to
address the four limitations of Study 1, we conducted an experimental study in which
participants generated creative ideas to solve a business problem. Drawing upon the results of
our first study, the goal of our second study was to test the results we obtained using a
different method, controlling for the task, and to use multiple experts to rate the creative
outcome. Most importantly, we wanted to test the proposed distrust loop and compare this
explanatory mechanism for the relationship between knowledge hiding and creativity with
other more intrapsychic mediators in moderated mediation analyses. We independently
manipulated mastery and performance climates as well as manipulated knowledge hiding in
order to mitigate the effect of underreporting this undesirable behavior.
Sample, Design, and Procedures
We conducted an experiment with 132 second-year undergraduates within an HRM course
at a Slovenian university. The age of the participants ranged from 20 years to 28 years, and
the mean age was 22.2 years (SD = 1.25). Approximately 65% were female, of which roughly
70% had some work experience such as student or summer jobs. They were given extra points
for participation. The experiment used a three-by-two (mastery climate/performance
climate/no climate induced
Χ
knowledge hiding, low/high) between-subjects factorial design.
The participants were randomly assigned to three classrooms prior to the course. We
introduced the study by explaining that we were interested in studying how people solve
business problems. The experiment began by presenting a marketing scenario to the
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participants. The participants were assigned the role of the company’s marketing managers. In
the scenario, the organization had developed a new product and a project team of two students
was assembled (thus, the students were asked to form dyads, as dyadic interaction is where
knowledge hiding tends to most significantly influence its outcomes [Connelly et al., 2012])
to introduce the product into the market successfully. The scenario consisted of two stages (15
minutes each). Each stage represented a specific phase of the product-launching process.
Motivational climate manipulation. Prior to beginning the first stage, we introduced our
manipulations of a mastery climate and performance climate, each in one classroom. The
manipulation consisted of two coherent aspects from which a specific motivational climate
was derived—that is, a performance climate in the first classroom and a mastery climate in
the second, which the instructor induced using teaching strategies consistent with Ames
(1992a)—and the members were given instructions that corresponded with a particular
climate. For a mastery climate, these instructions included the following:
During the task, you are encouraged to cooperate and exchange thoughts and ideas. Each
individual plays a very important role in this process. Cooperation and mutual exchange of
knowledge is desired and will be commended. You should work together to try to find new
solution methods and learn something throughout this process.
In addition, the teacher also repeated these instructions . Conversely, we induced a
performance climate using the following instructions:
During the task, you should keep in mind that your colleagues are actually your competitive
rivals. Work accomplishments will be assessed based on comparisons with other participants, so
you should try as hard as you can and perform better than others. This includes your team-mate
in the dyad as well.
In the third classroom, the control group, no inducement regarding motivational climates
was provided.
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Knowledge-hiding manipulation. Half of the participants in each classroom were given
special instructions about knowledge hiding (i.e., a sign “Hide your knowledge and
information” written on the instruction sheet in each of the stages). Knowledge hiding was
also randomly assigned within each classroom. Thus, dyads could consist of two, one, or no
knowledge hiders.
First stage of the experimental task. The first stage included one of the team members’
assuming the role of a strategy planner and the other the role of a sales channels designer.
Each had relevant information about the other’s role. For example, the strategy planner had
information about the sales channels designer (explanations of what this particular domain is
supposed to mean and what goals they might be expected to achieve):
A sales channel designer should consider options about which sales channels we can market our
product through and choose the best while also exploring some of the more unconventional
channels. What are sales channels? For example, Internet (in all forms and shapes), phone sales,
sales representatives, our stores, door-to-door sales, or anything else you come up with.
On the contrary, the sales channels designer had the information about the strategy planner,
for example:
A strategy planner should consider how the project can achieve optimal marketing results with
minimal resources. This includes balancing and coordinating sales channels with marketing
activities. He or she should come up with a holistic and rounded plan that would connect all
marketing efforts into one unified whole. Strategy usually is usually directed either toward
differentiation or cost efficiency. Marketing segmentation and target segments should also be
considered.
After they completed the task, we assessed the perceived knowledge hiding of the other
person in the dyad using Connelly et al.’s (2012) scale, which we adapted for this particular
task to measure others’ knowledge hiding instead of the subject’s (α = .93). The other person
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also provided a score of their distrust in the first one (“Please rate your level of distrust in
another team member you felt during the task,” with anchors “1 = trusted completely, 7 =
distrusted completely”).
Second stage of the experimental task. The second stage represented an extension of the
first. One of the dyad members was asked to generate at least three slogans for the new
marketing campaign, while the other was in charge of the advertising. Again, the first person
had information about the other on the instruction sheet, and vice versa:
Your team member who is in charge of advertising should come up with creative ideas for
advertisements, be it television, newspaper ads, magazine ads, billboards, flyers, etc. It is
desired that he or she thinks outside the box to come up with unusual places for these ads and
interesting ideas for the content of the advertisements.
Slogans for a new marketing campaign:
Your teammate who deals with a new marketing campaign should come up with at least three
slogans that are as creative as possible. Our company will market our product in commercials or
any promotional materials using these slogans. A slogan is a motto, or a short line, that is easy
on the ears and can be quickly remembered. It can briefly and effectively express the purpose or
an idea of a product.
After the participants completed the task, we assessed the knowledge hiding of the other
individual in the dyad (reciprocated knowledge hiding). This was self-reported using
Connelly et al.’s (2012) scale—α = .92. Each individual’s creative ideas were assessed by two
independent raters (experts in the field of creativity) on a scale from “1 = not at all creative”
to “7 = very creative.” The two raters’ reliability (ICC2 = .83) and agreement (single item rwg
= .80) were within conventional guidelines (LeBreton & Senter, 2008). We thus averaged
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their ratings into a measure of the overall creativity of the first and second individual’s second
stage of the task outcome.
After completing both tasks, all participants also answered questions regarding perceived
mastery and performance climates. We adapted the scale by substituting the word
“employees” with “participants” (α = .86 for mastery and .82 for performance climate),
whereas the participants on whom we manipulated knowledge hiding also self-reported this
phenomenon during the entire task (the same scale used by Connelly et al., 2012—α = .84).
These responses (climates and knowledge hiding) served as manipulation checks. The
participants also assessed an alternative mediator: the prevention focus (nine items from
Lockwood, Jordan, & Kunda, 2002
)
general regulatory focus measure (GRFM) that was
modified to measure their temporary psychological states during the experiment—α = .96.
STUDY 2: RESULTS
Means and standard deviations for each condition are shown in Table 3. Random
coefficient modeling was used in HLM 7 (we used this approach because our dyadic
experimental data violate the observation independence assumption in terms of creativity),
first for manipulation checks. It showed the expected main effects of the motivational climate
manipulation on the perceived mastery climate (γ = -.49, SE = .18, p < .01), the perceived
performance climate (γ = .18, SE = .08, p < .05), and the expected main effect of the
knowledge hiding manipulation on self-reported knowledge hiding (γ = .68, SE = .25, p <
.01).
Turning to creativity as the dependent variable, in support of Hypothesis 1, Table 3
presents creativity means of knowledge hiders in differential knowledge-hiding conditions.
All means for creativity were significantly different from one another except for two: no
knowledge hiding/performance climate condition and knowledge hiding/mastery climate
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condition; and no knowledge hiding/mastery climate condition and knowledge hiding/mastery
climate condition. The knowledge hiding manipulation significantly decreased one’s own
creativity (γ = -.26, SE = .06, p < .01)
2
.
A random coefficient modeling analysis also revealed a significant interaction effect of the
knowledge hiding and motivational climate manipulations on one’s own creativity (γ = -.17,
SE = .08, p < .05; Figure 5). Supporting Hypothesis 3, simple effects showed that knowledge
hiding decreased participantscreativity in performance climate conditions (ώ = -.34, SE =
.14, p < .05) and where no climate was induced (ώ = -.21, SE = .09, p < .05), but not in
mastery climate conditions (ώ = -.14, SE = .08, ns). A comparison of slopes depicting the
knowledge hiding-creativity relationship shows that the slopes in performance climate
conditions and in the control group are significantly different from one another (p < .05). The
effect of knowledge hiding on creativity is more negative in the performance climate group
than in the control group. The slope within mastery climate conditions is also significantly
different from that of the other two conditions (p < .05 when compared with the control group
and p < .01 when compared with the performance climate condition).
----------------------------------
Insert Table 3 about here
-----------------------------------
----------------------------------
Insert Figure 5 about here
-----------------------------------
Supplementary Analyses
The first set of supplementary analyses is concerned with contrasting the creativity scores
for the dyads with no knowledge hiders, versus one, versus two. Creativity means (no
knowledge hiders: 4.54, one knowledge hider: 3.43, and two knowledge hiders: 3.20) were
2
Knowledge hiding of the first individual is also significantly related to creativity of his/her partner in the dyad
(γ = -.29, SE = .08, p < .01).
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significantly different in the dyad type with no knowledge hiders as compared with the other
two dyad types (p<.01), whereas the creativity means were not significantly different in dyads
with one knowledge hider as compared with dyads featuring two knowledge hiders.
Next, to test the reciprocal distrust loop and to establish distrust as a mediator in the
knowledge-hiding creativity relationship, we examined the three-path mediation effect
(knowledge hiding by A distrust by B knowledge hiding by B creativity of A). We
used a random coefficient modeling analysis in MPlus 6 and adopted the joint significance
test (MacKinnon, Lockwood, Hoffman, West, & Sheets, 2002; Taylor, MacKinnon, & Tein,
2008), which requires a separate test for each of the mediated paths. The results show that
each of the three paths was significantly nonzero
3
, thus providing evidence of three-path
mediation. This allows us to proceed with examining distrust as an explanatory mechanism in
the moderated mediation analyses.
Next, we used Bauer et al.’s (2006) multilevel moderated mediation procedures to first
examine whether participants’ reports of distrust (second individual) and prevention focus
(first individual) mediated the effect of the knowledge-hiding manipulation on creativity. We
began by conducting multilevel moderated regression analyses that predicted distrust. The
interaction between the mastery climate and knowledge hiding in predicting distrust was
significant (γ = -.17, SE = .08, p < .05). The relationship between knowledge hiding and
distrust was positive in the performance climate condition (γ = .31, SE = .11, p < .01) and in
the control group (γ = .24, SE = .07, p < .01), whereas it was negative but not significant,
according to traditional significance standards, in the mastery climate condition (γ = -.11, SE
= .06, p < .10). Next, we tested whether distrust predicted creativity when knowledge hiding,
mastery climate, and their interaction were controlled for. Distrust was a significant predictor,
3
The 95% confidence intervals of these paths included knowledge hiding by A distrust by B (.19, .35),
distrust by B knowledge hiding by B (.24, .48), and knowledge hiding by B creativity of A (-.30, -.08).
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and the coefficient on the interaction term (knowledge hiding Χ mastery climate) decreased
below statistical significance (from .21 to .10). To examine whether this was a significant
decrease, we constructed 95% bias-corrected confidence intervals around the indirect effects
of both levels of motivational climate (Bauer et al., 2006). The confidence interval for the
indirect effect of knowledge hiding on creativity through distrust excluded zero for the
mastery climate condition (.01, .13), for the performance climate condition (.13, .36), and in
the control group (.04, .27), indicating that distrust mediated the relationship between
knowledge hiding and creativity in all motivational climate conditions.
We compared these results with an alternative mediator, prevention focus. Knowledge
hiding and mastery climate do interact in predicting this intrapsychic mediator (γ = -.20, SE =
.09, p < .05). The relationship between knowledge hiding and prevention focus was positive
in the performance climate condition (γ = .44, SE = .16, p < .01) and in the control group (γ =
.35, SE = .13, p < .01), whereas it was negative but not significant in the mastery climate
condition (γ = -.01 SE = .11, ns). Next, we tested whether prevention focus predicted
creativity when knowledge hiding, mastery climate, and their interaction were controlled for.
Prevention focus was a significant predictor, and the coefficient on the interaction term
(knowledge hiding Χ mastery climate) decreased to below statistical significance (from .21 to
.11). To examine whether this was a significant decrease, we constructed 95% bias-corrected
confidence intervals around the indirect effects of both motivational climate conditions (Bauer
et al., 2006). The confidence interval for the indirect effect of knowledge hiding on creativity
through prevention focus excluded zero for the mastery climate condition (.0019, .15), for the
performance climate condition (.09, .25), and in the control group (.03,18), indicating that
prevention focus mediated the relationship between knowledge hiding and creativity in all
motivational climate conditions. We thus found empirical support for the distrust loop
(supporting a colleague’s distrust as a mediator in the relationship between knowledge hiding
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and own creativity). This social explanatory mechanism is valid even after examining the
impact of an alternative intrapsychic mediator, prevention focus, which also uniquely explains
the relationship between knowledge hiding and creativity. Thus, interpersonal (social) and
intrapsychic mechanisms represent different sides of the same coin in explaining the
relationship between knowledge hiding and creativity.
GENERAL DISCUSSION
We have drawn on social exchange theory (Blau, 1964) and the norm of reciprocity
(Gouldner, 1960) to argue that when a co-worker is denied knowledge needed in order to be
creative, in turn, this same person is likely to reciprocate knowledge hiding to the initial
knowledge hider. This behavior would successively impede the knowledge hider’s creativity,
as both of our studies support. The results from both field and experimental data also
demonstrated that a mastery climate buffers the detrimental effect of knowledge hiding on the
knowledge hider’s creativity. On the other hand, in high-performance climate conditions, the
association between knowledge hiding and creativity was even more negative.
Theoretical Contributions
Theory and recent research on organizational creativity emphasize the importance of
creating favorable work environments in stimulating individual creativity (e.g., Amabile,
1983; Woodman et al., 1993; Zhou et al., 2012), including knowledge sharing (Perry-Smith,
2006; Perry-Smith & Shalley, 2003). To date, however, limited attention has been paid to
knowledge hiding as an individual-level contingency that can explain the failure of creativity
enhancement initiatives in organizations beyond the lack of knowledge sharing. Therefore,
this study’s first theoretical contribution to the creativity literature is its establishment of the
existence of a distrust loop between knowledge hiding and creativity. We have shown that this
interpersonal mechanism involves a colleague’s reciprocal knowledge hiding, which, in turn,
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is related to the diminished creativity of the initial knowledge hider. This process is based on
the norm of reciprocity (Gouldner, 1960) and social exchange theory (Blau, 1964). We were
able to test the distrust loop and all of its elements via a two-stage experimental design in
Study 2. We even found support for our proposed interpersonal mechanism when comparing
its role with prevention focus as a representative of an intrapsychic mediator. Employees
engage in knowledge hiding to protect themselves, thus activating a prevention focus and
behavioral avoidance, which, in turn, decreases creativity.
Our second contribution to the creativity literature is the introduction of the moderating
role of the motivational climate. Across two studies using both field and experimental data,
we find that a mastery climate overrides the reciprocity norms underlying the social exchange
in the knowledge hiding-creativity relationship. A mastery climate influences social exchange
patterns by facilitating more constructive exchange relationships among coworkers, thereby
preventing negative actions from resulting in negative consequences. It does so by reducing
the likelihood that intentionally concealing or withholding knowledge from exchange partners
will lead to distrust and reciprocal knowledge hiding and subsequently result in inhibited
employee creativity. By introducing the motivational climate as a relevant moderator, we
facilitate the possibility of not simply considering the individual in terms of his or her
personal dispositions (e.g., Matzler & Müller, 2011; Swift et al., 2010) but rather considering
the individual in his or her context (Johns, 2006). In short, and in support of previous findings
(e.g., Hirst et al., 2009; Zhou et al., 2012), shared work climate perceptions are important
since they enable organizations and their managers to take corrective and preventive actions
(i.e., actionability; cf., Pearce & Huang, 2012) by facilitating an adequate motivational
climate.
In contrast, in high-performance climate conditions, the association between knowledge
hiding and creativity was even more negative (albeit this interaction was only marginally
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significant in Study 1). This aligns well with previous research showing that competition and
social comparison do not encourage creativity enhancement initiatives (e.g., Johnson et al.,
2006; Roberts, Treasure, & Conroy, 2007). Reward structures in a performance climate are
typically based on comparative information (i.e., verbal comparison of coworkers). Our
findings indicate that since employees perceive that outperforming coworkers is expected,
rewarded, and supported behavior in their work situation, they become motivated to impair
the progress of others by intentionally hiding their own knowledge in an effort to gain
personal positive advantage (cf., Beersma et al., 2003). Still, because consistent results across
our two studies are lacking, this finding should be interpreted with caution, and future
research is warranted.
Our findings also contribute to research on help-seeking, help-giving, and creativity.
Mueller and Kamdar’s (2011) recent research in this field shows that seeking help from co-
workers results in increased personal creativity. On the other hand, people who seek help also
tend to reciprocate in giving help, which negatively relates to personal creativity and
attenuates the mediated relationship between intrinsic motivation and creativity via help-
seeking (Mueller & Kamdar, 2011). Our study adds to this line of research by supporting the
positive effects gained from obtaining knowledge and information a person needs for
creativity, either through lower levels of reciprocated knowledge hiding or through increased
help-seeking. In addition, a mastery climate environment can apparently override norms of
self-interest (cf., Grant & Patil, 2012) toward reciprocal help-giving. Our findings extend the
findings of Mueller and Kamdar (2011) in that we find positive gains in giving knowledge
and information to others in the form of personal creativity. Mueller and Kamdar (2011), on
the other hand, found that providing help equals reciprocation costs in terms of less time to
work on creative ideas individually. It should be emphasized that their study explicitly
focused on seeking and giving help, while our two studies examined knowledge and
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information hiding. As such, the examined concepts are not completely the same, which could
affect the comparison of findings.
Limitations and Suggestions for Future Research
The results from our two studies should be interpreted in light of several potential
limitations. First, by focusing on the perceived motivational climate, we decided to include a
limited number of factors mitigating the knowledge hiding-creativity relationship. For
example, the ability of a mastery climate to reverse the negative relationship between
knowledge hiding and creativity could also be dependent upon other factors, such as
perceived supervisor support, decision autonomy, goal orientation, and other job-related
variables that have been found to influence creativity (e.g., Amabile, Schatzel, Moneta, &
Kramer, 2004; Hirst et al., 2009; Zhou, 1998). Further research in exploring work situations
that stimulate or hinder the negative relationship between knowledge hiding and creativity
within the extant motivational climate is required.
Second, a potential limitation of our experimental Study 2 is that the mastery climate
manipulation may have confounded cooperation and learning by including instructions that
may not be clearly distinct from the knowledge-hiding manipulation. Nonetheless, people
have discretion about what knowledge to share, making it possible that although participants
are encouraged to learn and share knowledge and that they understand the important role each
individual plays in the process, the hiding manipulation may cause them to withhold some
information. Since we manipulated knowledge hiding and climate independently, our data do
speak to their interactive effects. Future research should nonetheless focus on ruling out these
potential confounds and produce even cleaner manipulations of the three mastery climate
dimensions (cooperation, the important role each individual plays, and learning). Another
limitation related to our manipulation is that rating distrust after the first stage of the
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experimental task may have affected the participants’ behavior during the second stage of the
experimental task. Future studies can address this issue by varying the measurement order.
In addition, another limitation related to our random assignment exists; even if we did
randomly assign students to the different motivational climate conditions and knowledge
hiding to dyad members, the participants were not randomly assigned to dyads but rather were
asked to form dyads with their neighbors in the classroom. Nevertheless, the effects of this
limitation are probably not so severe because the groups were not permanent (throughout the
school year or in other courses), which is why permanent mini-groups of students who would
constantly sit together likely did not form. Nonetheless, some students might have known
each other beforehand and could have chosen to sit together, resulting in another limitation of
our experimental Study 2.
Given the cross sectional field data in Study 1, reverse causality cannot be excluded when
interpreting the results. Nonetheless, we were able to address this concern by adding another
experimental study in which we found support for causal relationships and tested our main
explanatory mechanism, the reciprocal distrust loop. The participants in the experimental
study were somewhat homogeneous, as we used a student sample. Consequently, a potential
threat to the generalizability of the findings associated with the experiment does exist, but the
findings do serve to strengthen the causal claims of the survey-based Study 1. Furthermore, as
Highhouse and Gillespie (2009) noted, the use of student samples is only problematic when
the behavior studied is specific to one demographic or occupational group. Because
knowledge hiding, as well as creativity, may be relevant for all workers, including students,
this population constituted a reasonable sample for further testing our hypotheses. In general,
our two-study, multi-method approach addresses generalizability concerns and indicates that
knowledge hiding negatively predicts creativity and that this relationship is dependent upon
its interaction with the perceived motivational climate.
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Practical Implications
In increasingly dynamic and uncertain work environments, organizations depend on
creative ideas from employees (George, 2007). Our studies indicate how knowledge hiding
negatively influences the knowledge hider’s creativity and how managers can mitigate this
effect by inducing particular motivational climate conditions at work. Our findings support a
mastery climate as a suitable work environment for stimulating creative behaviors when faced
with knowledge hiding. In addition, the need for self-protection seems to decrease in such
environments, while a mastery climate fosters trust rather than distrust among employees.
Managers must be aware, however, that stimulating a performance climate (i.e., emphasizing
competition and goal achievement at any cost) leads to even worse scenarios. Under such
conditions, knowledge hiding has an even more negative influence on employee creativity.
Providing incentives for employees to “betray” their coworkers (i.e., inducing a performance
climate) should be avoided, as this negatively impacts creativity. This serves as a powerful
explanation for the potential failures of creativity enhancement initiatives based on
competition instead of on collaboration.
The second practical implication of this paper entails the employees in organizations who
intentionally and actively hide knowledge from their peers. In light of our findings, they
should reconsider and be careful about hiding knowledge from their coworkers because as our
two studies have shown, what goes around comes around. More specifically, employees who
intentionally hide more knowledge seem bound to receive such selfish behavior in return from
their co-workers, which will ultimately hurt them and decrease their creativity. This could
also be described using the metaphor of “shooting yourself in the foot.” The existence of such
a reciprocal distrust loop is somewhat in contrast with the findings of the literature on
unforgiveness as a coping strategy (Worthington Jr & Wade, 1999), which suggests that
employees gain more if they withhold negative reciprocity. It is apparent, however, that
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human nature is not inclined toward this type of restraint. People would rather reciprocate
negatively, gaining a short-term feeling of satisfaction (Tepper et al., 2011), even if they
could lose more in the long term. Therefore, employees should engage in less knowledge-
hiding behavior in order to facilitate their own creative processes.
CONCLUSION
An unfortunate fact of organizational life is that employees sometimes intentionally
withhold knowledge from their coworkers. Although knowledge hiding is a relatively low-
base-rate event, its consequences are likely to be devastating to organizational creativity,
innovation, and performance. Specifically, knowledge hiders end up hurting their own
creativity by intentionally withholding information from their colleagues. These coworkers
retaliate by reciprocating knowledge hiding via an interpersonal distrust loop. However,
managers have the ability to mitigate this process by facilitating a mastery climate. On the
other hand, by solely inducing a performance climate, they could attain the contrary effect.
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Table 1: Means, standard deviations, and correlations
a,b
a
n=242.
b
Coefficient alphas are on the diagonal in parentheses.
*
p<.05, ** p<.01
Mean
s.d.
1
2
3
4
5
1
Creativity
5.34
1.06
(.95)
2
Knowledge hiding
1.94
.85
-
.18*
(.89)
3
Creativity required for position
4.12
1.31
.73**
-
.34**
-
4
Mastery climate
4.56
.89
.23**
.04
-
.14*
(.79)
5
Performance climate
3.74
.92
.08
-
.03
-
.01
-
.03
(.84)
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Table 2: Multilevel analysis results for creativity as the dependent variable
a, b
Model 1
Model 2
Model 3
Model 4
Model 5
Level 1
Intercept 5.41** (.11) 5.44**(.06) 5.44**(.06) 5.45**(.06) 5.43**(.06)
Creativity required for position .52** (.05) .52** (.05) .47** (.04) .51** (.04)
Knowledge hiding -.21** (.08) -.21** (.04) -.20** (.06) -.21** (.07)
Level 2
Mastery climate .01 (.05) .01 (.05) .01 (.05)
Performance climate -.01 (.06) -.02 (.05) -.03 (.06)
Interaction effects
Knowledge hiding Χ Mastery climate .17* (.07) .17* (.08)
Knowledge hiding Χ Performance
climate -.14
(.07) -.13
(.06)
Knowledge hiding Χ Mastery climate
Χ Performance climate
.03 (.02)
Pseudo R
2
.27 .28 .37 .38
Deviance 639.93 457.29 464.01 450.00 457.70
n (level 1) 34 34 34 34 34
n (level 2) 240 240 240 240 240
a
Entries are estimations of fixed effects with robust standard errors.
b
Results were substantively unchanged after accounting for age, gender, expertise, dyad
tenure, company, task variety, task interdependence, mastery goal orientation, performance goal orientation, and team size as control variables, which were all
found not to be significantly related to creativity. **p<.01, *p<.05,
p<.10
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Table 3: Means and standard deviations by condition
a
Condition Creativity Performance
climate
Mastery
climate
Distrust Prevention
focus
Knowledge
hiding
No knowledge hiding,
performance climate (n
= 22)
4.36 (1.49) 4.59 (1.18) 4.14 (1.36) 1.68 (1.94) 2.32 (1.04) 1.73 (1.45)
Knowledge hiding,
performance climate (n
= 22)
2.86 (.83) 5.45 (1.34) 4.27 (1.35) 5.32 (.96) 5.41 (1.40) 4.86 (1.83)
No knowledge hiding,
mastery climate (n = 22)
4.84 (1.89) 2.86 (1.81) 5.64 (1.56) 2.53 (1.78) 3.53 (1.39) 1.32 (.48)
Knowledge hiding,
mastery climate (n = 22)
4.5 (.91) 2.91 (1.15) 5.86 (1.04) 5.09 (.97) 4.73 (1.67) 2.27 (1.03)
No knowledge hiding,
no climate induced (n =
22)
3.24 (1.79) 2.71 (1.79) 4.05 (2.29) 1.57 (1.21) 2.76 (.96) 1.52 (.68)
Knowledge hiding, no
climate induced (n = 22)
2.52 (1.04) 2.95 (1.26) 4.35 (1.75) 4.78 (1.24) 4.74 (1.14) 2.61 (1.27)
a
Standard deviations are in parentheses
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Figure 1: Reciprocal distrust loop illustrating the knowledge hiding-creativity
relationship
1st individual
Knowledge
hiding
Creativity
2nd individual
Distrust
Reciprocated
knowledge hiding
Perceived
knowledge hiding
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Figure 2: Relationships between our focal constructs
Knowledge
hiding (ind 1)
Creativity (ind 1)
Mastery climate Performance climate
Distrust
(ind 2)
Prevention focus (ind 1)
H1-
H2
H3
H4
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Figure 3: The moderating effect of perceived mastery climate on the knowledge hiding-
creativity relationship
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Figure 4: The moderating effect of perceived performance climate on the knowledge
hiding-creativity relationship
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Biographical Sketches
Matej Černe (matej.cerne@ef.uni-lj.si) is an assistant for scientific research at The Centre of
Excellence for Biosensors, Instrumentation and Process Control (COBIK), and a teaching
assistant and late Ph.D. student at the Faculty of Economics Ljubljana University in Slovenia.
A focus on non-technological innovation, creativity, leadership, and multi-level issues in
management are overarching themes of his research.
Christina G. L. Nerstad (christina.g.l.nerstad@bi.no) is a postdoctoral fellow at BI
Norwegian Business School. She recently received her Ph.D. from BI Norwegian Business
School. Her research activities are in the areas of organizational behavior, human