Top-Down Knowledge Hiding in Organizations: An Empirical Study of the Consequences of Supervisor Knowledge Hiding Among Local and Foreign Workers in the Middle East

Abstract

This study adds to the growing research exploring the consequences of knowledge hiding in organizations. Drawing from the social exchange theory and the norm of reciprocity, this paper examines the direct and indirect—via distrust in supervisor—relationships between supervisor knowledge hiding (SKH) and supervisee organizational citizenship behavior directed at the supervisor (OCB-S) in the context of the Middle East. Using a supervisor–supervisee dyadic design, two-source data were obtained from 317 employees (local and foreign) of 41 Saudi firms. The findings suggest that supervisees’ distrust in their supervisors mediates the significant and negative relationship between SKH and supervisees’ OCB-S. Furthermore, the significant and positive relationship between SKH and distrust in supervisor is more pronounced for foreign workers than for local workers. This study provides empirical support and a better understanding of the existence and consequences of SKH for local and foreign workers and also discusses the theoretical and practical implications of the findings.

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Fig. 1

Notes

  1. 1.

    We define “foreign” workers as those employees who do not have permanent residential status in the KSA (i.e., the host country) and whose work visas are sponsored by Saudi firms. Thus, they are different from “expatriate” workers whose overseas assignments are sponsored by their home country firms (Ang et al. 2003; Guzzo et al. 1994).

  2. 2.

    Prior research on the consequences of employee knowledge hiding mostly focused on “reciprocal knowledge hiding” and recently focused on “counter productive work behavior” (CWB), as one of the most likely reactions of the victim of knowledge hiding against the culprit of knowledge hiding (Černe et al. 2017, 2014; Connelly and Zweig 2015; Serenko and Bontis 2016). However, given (1) the supervisory powers for punishing a supervisee who engages in negative work behavior, particularly toward the supervisor, and (2) the work context of the KSA, which is characterized by high uncertainty, low job security, a high-power-distance societal culture, and discrimination between locals and foreigners, it is expected that supervisees react against SKH by reducing their extra-role OCB-S rather than engaging in reciprocal knowledge hiding from and CWB toward their supervisors.

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Acknowledgements

We would like to acknowledge the help of Iqra University, Islamabad, Pakistan to the third author—Naeem Ashraf who is serving as an adjunct faculty member at Iqra University. We would also like acknowledge the feedback, and insightful comments, from the editor and two anonymous reviewers during the development of this paper

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Correspondence to Zeeshan Ahmed Bhatti.

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Arain, G.A., Bhatti, Z.A., Ashraf, N. et al. Top-Down Knowledge Hiding in Organizations: An Empirical Study of the Consequences of Supervisor Knowledge Hiding Among Local and Foreign Workers in the Middle East. J Bus Ethics 164, 611–625 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10551-018-4056-2

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Keywords

  • Knowledge hiding
  • Distrust in supervisor
  • Organizational citizenship behavior directed at the supervisor
  • The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
  • Multigroup analysis
  • PLS-SEM