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.
This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Price includes VAT for USA
Subscribe to journal
Immediate online access to all issues from 2019. Subscription will auto renew annually.
This is the net price. Taxes to be calculated in checkout.
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).
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.
Al Ariss, A. (2014). Voicing experiences and perceptions of local managers: Expatriation in the Arab Gulf. The International Journal of Human Resource Management, 25(14), 1978–1994.
Al-Asfour, A., & Khan, S. A. (2014). Workforce localization in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia: Issues and challenges. Human Resource Development International, 17(2), 243–253.
Alshanbri, N., Khalfan, M., Noor, M. A., Dutta, D., Zhang, K., & Maqsood, T. (2015). Employees’ turnover, knowledge management and human recourse management: A case of Nitaqat program. International Journal of Social Science and Humanity, 5(8), 701.
Alshanbri, N., Maqsood, T., & Khalfan, M. M. (2016). Mr. Expat, you are fired! Employees’ replacement case study from the Middle East. Middle East Journal of Management, 3(1), 49–71.
Andreeva, T., & Kianto, A. (2012). Does knowledge management really matter? Linking knowledge management practices, competitiveness and economic performance. Journal of Knowledge Management, 16(4), 617–636.
Ang, S., Van Dyne, L., & Begley, T. M. (2003). The employment relationships of foreign workers versus local employees: A field study of organizational justice, job satisfaction, performance, and OCB. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 24(5), 561–583.
Arain, G. A., Sheikh, A., Hameed, I., & Asadullah, M. A. (2017). Do as I do: The effect of teachers’ ethical leadership on business students’ academic citizenship behaviors. Ethics & Behavior, 27(8), 665–680.
Babcock, P. (2004). Shedding light on knowledge management. HR Magazine, 49(5), 46–51.
Bavik, Y. L., Tang, P. M., Shao, R., & Lam, L. W. (2017). Ethical leadership and employee knowledge sharing: Exploring dual-mediation paths. The Leadership Quarterly, 29(2), 322–332.
Blau, P. M. (1964). Exchange and power in social life. New York: Wiley.
Bogilović, S., Černe, M., & Škerlavaj, M. (2017). Hiding behind a mask? Cultural intelligence, knowledge hiding, and individual and team creativity. European Journal of Work and Organizational Psychology, 26(5), 710–723.
Bordia, P., Irmer, B. E., & Abusah, D. (2006). Differences in sharing knowledge interpersonally and via databases: The role of evaluation apprehension and perceived benefits. European Journal of Work and Organizational Psychology, 15(3), 262–280.
Černe, M., Hernaus, T., Dysvik, A., & Škerlavaj, M. (2017). The role of multilevel synergistic interplay among team mastery climate, knowledge hiding, and job characteristics in stimulating innovative work behavior. Human Resource Management Journal, 27(2), 281–299.
Černe, M., Nerstad, C. G., Dysvik, A., & Škerlavaj, M. (2014). What goes around comes around: Knowledge hiding, perceived motivational climate, and creativity. Academy of Management Journal, 57(1), 172–192.
Cheung, S. Y., Gong, Y., Wang, M., Zhou, L., & Shi, J. (2016). When and how does functional diversity influence team innovation? The mediating role of knowledge sharing and the moderation role of affect-based trust in a team. Human Relations, 69(7), 1507–1531.
Cho, J. (2006). The mechanism of trust and distrust formation and their relational outcomes. Journal of Retailing, 82(1), 25–35.
Connelly, C. E., & Zweig, D. (2015). How perpetrators and targets construe knowledge hiding in organizations. European Journal of Work and Organizational Psychology, 24(3), 479–489.
Connelly, C. E., Zweig, D., Webster, J., & Trougakos, J. P. (2012). Knowledge hiding in organizations. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 33(1), 64–88.
Cropanzano, R., & Mitchell, M. S. (2005). Social exchange theory: An interdisciplinary review. Journal of Management, 31(6), 874–900.
Davenport, T. H., & Prusak, L. (1998). Working knowledge: How organizations manage what they know. Brighton: Harvard Business Press.
Dimoka, A. (2010). What does the brain tell us about trust and distrust? Evidence from a functional neuroimaging study. MIS Quarterly, 34(2), 1–24.
Dong, Y., Bartol, K. M., Zhang, Z. X., & Li, C. (2017). Enhancing employee creativity via individual skill development and team knowledge sharing: Influences of dual-focused transformational leadership. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 38(3), 439–458.
Edgar, D., Azhar, A., & Duncan, P. (2016). The impact of the saudization policy on recruitment and retention: A case study of the banking sector in Saudi Arabia. Journal of Business, 1(5), 01–14.
Fang, Y.-H. (2017). Coping with fear and guilt using mobile social networking applications: Knowledge hiding, loafing, and sharing. Telematics and Informatics, 34(5), 779–797.
Fong, P. S., Men, C., Luo, J., & Jia, R. (2018). Knowledge hiding and team creativity: The contingent role of task interdependence. Management Decision, 56(2), 329–343.
Gagné, M. (2009). A model of knowledge-sharing motivation. Human Resource Management, 48(4), 571–589.
Gouldner, A. W. (1960). The norm of reciprocity: A preliminary statement. American Sociological Review, 25(2), 161–178.
Guzzo, R. A., Noonan, K. A., & Elron, E. (1994). Expatriate managers and the psychological contract. Journal of Applied Psychology, 79(4), 617–626.
Hair, J. F., Black, W. C., Babin, B. J., & Anderson, R. E. (2010). Multivariate data analysis (7th edn.). Upper Saddle River:: Prentice Hall.
Hair, J. F. Jr., Hult, G. T. M., Ringle, C., & Sarstedt, M. (2016). A primer on partial least squares structural equation modeling (PLS-SEM). Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications.
Henseler, J., Ringle, C. M., & Sarstedt, M. (2015). A new criterion for assessing discriminant validity in variance-based structural equation modeling. Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science, 43(1), 115–135.
Henseler, J., Ringle, C. M., & Sarstedt, M. (2016). Testing measurement invariance of composites using partial least squares. International Marketing Review, 33(3), 405–431.
Henseler, J., Ringle, C. M., & Sinkovics, R. R. (2009). The use of partial least squares path modeling in international marketing. In R. R. Sinkovics & P. N. Ghauri (Eds.), New challenges to international marketing (pp. 277–319). Bingley: Emerald Group Publishing Limited.
Hoch, J. E., Bommer, W. H., Dulebohn, J. H., & Wu, D. (2016). Do ethical, authentic, and servant leadership explain variance above and beyond transformational leadership? A Meta-Analysis. Journal of Management. https://doi.org/10.1177/0149206316665461.
Jiang, Z., Hu, X., Wang, Z., & Jiang, X. (2018). Why do employees struggle to thrive at work? A Look at the impact of knowledge hiding. Paper presented at the Academy of Management Proceedings.
Koyame-Marsh, R. O. (2016). Saudization and the Nitaqat programs: overview and performance. Journal of Accounting, 6(2), 36–48.
Landry, G., & Vandenberghe, C. (2009). Role of commitment to the supervisor, leader-member exchange, and supervisor-based self-esteem in employee-supervisor conflicts. The Journal of Social Psychology, 149(1), 5–28.
Lewicki, R. J., McAllister, D. J., & Bies, R. J. (1998). Trust and distrust: New relationships and realities. Academy of Management Review, 23, 438–458.
Liang, J., Farh, C. I. C., & Farh, J. L. (2012). Psychological antecedents of promotive and prohibitive voice: A two-wave examination. Academy of Management Journal, 55(1), 71–92. https://doi.org/10.5465/amj.2010.0176.
Liao, E. Y., & Chun, H. (2016). Supervisor monitoring and subordinate innovation. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 37(2), 168–192.
Lin, C. P. (2007). To share or not to share: Modeling tacit knowledge sharing, its mediators and antecedents. Journal of Business Ethics, 70(4), 411–428.
Lohmöller, J.-B. (1989). Predictive vs. structural modeling: PLS vs. ML. In Latent variable path modeling with partial least squares (pp. 199–226). New York: Springer.
Mackey, J. D., Ellen, B. P., Hochwarter, W. A., & Ferris, G. R. (2013). Subordinate social adaptability and the consequences of abusive supervision perceptions in two samples. The Leadership Quarterly, 24(5), 732–746.
Mackey, J. D., Frieder, R. E., Brees, J. R., & Martinko, M. J. (2017). Abusive supervision: A meta-analysis and empirical review. Journal of Management, 43(6), 1940–1965.
Mary MacNeil, C. (2004). Exploring the supervisor role as a facilitator of knowledge sharing in teams. Journal of European Industrial Training, 28(1), 93–102.
Masterson, S. S., Lewis, K., Goldman, B. M., & Taylor, M. S. (2000). Integrating justice and social exchange: The differing effects of fair procedures and treatment on work relationships. Academy of Management Journal, 43(4), 738–748.
Mawritz, M. B., Mayer, D. M., Hoobler, J. M., Wayne, S. J., & Marinova, S. V. (2012). A trickle-down model of abusive supervision. Personnel Psychology, 65(2), 325–357.
Mayer, D. M., Kuenzi, M., Greenbaum, R., Bardes, M., & Salvador, R. B. (2009). How low does ethical leadership flow? Test of a trickle-down model. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, 108(1), 1–13.
McAllister, D., Lewicki, R., & Bies, R. (2000). Hardball: The impact of trust, distrust, and relationship quality on hard influence tactic use. Unpublished manuscript.
McKnight, D. H., & Chervany, N. L. (2001). Trust and distrust definitions: One bite at a time. Lecture Notes in Computer Science, 2246, 27–54.
McKnight, D. H., Kacmar, C. J., & Chaudhry, V. (2004). Dispositional trust and distrust distrust distinctions in predicting high- and low-risk internet expert advice site perceptions. E-Service Journal, 3(2), 35–58.
Mellahi, K. (2007). The effect of regulations on HRM: Private sector firms in Saudi Arabia. The International Journal of Human Resource Management, 18(1), 85–99.
Mesmer-Magnus, J. R., & DeChurch, L. A. (2009). Information sharing and team performance: A meta-analysis. Journal of Applied Psychology, 94(2), 535.
Metcalfe, B. D., & Murfin, T. (Eds.). (2012). Leadership, social development and political economy in the Middle East: An introduction. Northampton: Edward Elgar.
Meyer, M., Ohana, M., & Stinglhamber, F. (2017). The impact of supervisor interpersonal justice on supervisor-directed citizenship behaviors in social enterprises: A moderated mediation model. The International Journal of Human Resource Management. https://doi.org/10.1080/09585192.2017.1380060.
Newman, A., Schwarz, G., Cooper, B., & Sendjaya, S. (2017). How servant leadership influences organizational citizenship behavior: The roles of LMX, empowerment, and proactive personality. Journal of Business Ethics, 145(1), 49–62.
Nurunnabi, M. (2017). Transformation from an oil-based economy to a knowledge-based economy in Saudi Arabia: the Direction of Saudi Vision 2030. Journal of the Knowledge Economy, 8(2), 536–564.
Organ, D. W. (1988). Organizational citizenship behavior: The good soldier syndrome. Lexington: Lexington Books.
Peng, H. (2013). Why and when do people hide knowledge? Journal of Knowledge Management, 17(3), 398–415.
Peng, J., Wang, Z., & Chen, X. (2018). Does self-serving leadership hinder team creativity? A moderated dual-path model. Journal of Business Ethics. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10551-018-3799-0.
Podsakoff, N. P., Whiting, S. W., Podsakoff, P. M., & Blume, B. D. (2009). Individual- and organizational-level consequences of organizational citizenship behaviors: A meta-analysis. Journal of Applied Psychology, 94(1), 122–141.
Podsakoff, P. M., MacKenzie, S. B., Paine, J. B., & Bachrach, D. G. (2000). Organizational citizenship behaviors: A critical review of theoretical and empirical literature and suggestions for future research. Journal of Management, 26, 513–532.
Podsakoff, P. M., MacKenzie, S. B., & Podsakoff, N. P. (2012). Sources of method bias in social science research and recommendations on how to control it. Annual Review of Psychology, 63, 539–569.
Quigley, N. R., Tesluk, P. E., Locke, E. A., & Bartol, K. M. (2007). A multilevel investigation of the motivational mechanisms underlying knowledge sharing and performance. Organization Science, 18(1), 71–88.
Rasoolimanesh, S. M., Ringle, C. M., Jaafar, M., & Ramayah, T. (2017). Urban vs. rural destinations: Residents’ perceptions, community participation and support for tourism development. Tourism Management, 60, 147–158.
Riege, A. (2005). Three-dozen knowledge-sharing barriers managers must consider. Journal of Knowledge Management, 9(3), 18–35.
Ringle, C., Wende, S., & Becker, J. (2015). SmartPLS. Boenningstedt: SmartPLS GmbH.
Saudi Vision 2030. (2017). Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030. Retrieved from http://vision2030.gov.sa/en. Accessed 12 April 2018.
Schlägel, C., & Sarstedt, M. (2016). Assessing the measurement invariance of the four-dimensional cultural intelligence scale across countries: A composite model approach. European Management Journal, 34(6), 633–649.
Serenko, A., & Bontis, N. (2016). Understanding counterproductive knowledge behavior: antecedents and consequences of intra-organizational knowledge hiding. Journal of Knowledge Management, 20(6), 1199–1224.
Shore, L. M., Coyle-Shapiro, J. A.-M., Chen, X.-P., & Tetrick, L. E. (2009). Social exchange in work settings: Content, mixed and process models. Management and Organization Review, 5(3), 289–302.
Škerlavaj, M., Connelly, C. E., Cerne, M., & Dysvik, A. (2018). Tell me if you can: time pressure, prosocial motivation, perspective taking, and knowledge hiding. Journal of Knowledge Management, 22(7), 1489–1509.
Skok, W., & Tahir, S. (2010). Developing a knowledge management strategy for the Arab world. The Electronic Journal of Information Systems in Developing Countries, 41(1), 1–11.
Williams, L. J., & Anderson, S. E. (1991). Job satisfaction and organizational commitment as predictors of organizational citizenship and in-role behaviors. Journal of Management, 17, 601–617.
Wu, M., Huang, X., Li, C., & Liu, W. (2012). Perceived interactional justice and trust-in-supervisor as mediators for paternalistic leadership. Management and Organization Review, 8(1), 97–121.
Yeo, R. K., & Marquardt, M. J. (2015). To share or not to share? Self-perception and knowledge-sharing intent. Knowledge Management Research & Practice, 13(3), 311–328.
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
No funding was received for the research used in this study.
Conflict of interest
Being a first and corresponding author of this article, I declare that there is no conflict of interest related to this article.
All the procedures performed in this research/article involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki Declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards. This article does not contain any studies with animals performed by any of the authors.
Informed consent was obtained from all the individual participants included in the study.
About this article
Cite this article
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
- Knowledge hiding
- Distrust in supervisor
- Organizational citizenship behavior directed at the supervisor
- The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
- Multigroup analysis