Knowledge Hiding in a Buyer-Supplier Relationship: Present and Future Scope

Knowledge Hiding in a Buyer-Supplier Relationship: Present and Future Scope

Atif Saleem Butt (American University of Ras Al Khaimah, UAE), Syed Hamad Hassan Shah (Donghua University, China), Saleha Noor (East China University of Science and Technology, China) and Muhammad Ali (School of Economics and Management, Tongji University, Shanghai, China)
Copyright: © 2020 |Pages: 12
DOI: 10.4018/IJKM.2020040102
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Knowledge management has been the subject of much research in buyer-supplier relationship literature. Many of these studies outline the benefits attributed to buying and supplying firms as a result of knowledge sharing between its managers. However, it is important to note managers across firms can also deliberately hide knowledge from each other during their business interaction. This study fills this important gap. The analysis of this study is based on a pilot study comprising six semi-structured interviews with the managers of buying and supplying firms. The findings suggest that managers of buying and supplying firms experience five different types of antecedents during their business interaction. This paper provides theoretical contribution to supply chain knowledge management literature by proposing five antecedents of knowledge hiding in a buyer-supplier relationship. The findings of this study also have practical implications. Specifically, firms can use initial findings from this study to understand what compels their management to engage in knowledge hiding.
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Knowledge sharing between buying and supplying firms is one of the most important attributes contributing to the success of a buyer-supplier relationship. Extant literature argues that adequate knowledge sharing between buying and supplying firms results bring firms closer with the potential to develop long term business relationships (Cheng et al., 2017: Samuel et al, 2011). Additional studies focusing on the importance of knowledge sharing in a buyer-supplier relationship found that knowledge sharing helps firms to innovate and can contribute effectively to the firm's success (Hadaya and Cassivi, 2009). Furthermore, Ajmal and Kristianto (2012) found that knowledge sharing between firms also results in reduced uncertainty and better decision-making, eventually leading to superior business performance by exchange partners. While knowledge sharing between firms plays an important, it is essential to mention that buying and supplying firms can deliberately hide knowledge from each other. Notably, purchasing and supplying managers working to secure their firm's interest can engage in an intentional knowledge hiding. (Connelly et al. 2012, p. 65) defines knowledge hiding is defined as “an intentional attempt by an individual to withhold or conceal knowledge that has been requested by another person”. Such knowledge hiding between managers across firms can harm a firm's ability to remain competitive and innovative. Černe et al., (2014, 2017) state that knowledge hiding between firms can affect supplying the firm's ability to engage in active product development.

On the other hand, Connelly and Zweig (2015) and Hernaus et al., (2019) found that, although knowledge hiders rationalize their behaviours, they did anticipate harmed relationships. There are additional reasons to believe that managers across firms can purposely hide knowledge during their business interaction, which can leave firms in isolation. Take an example; a supplying manager may be reluctant to share the knowledge with the buying manager because he may not fully trust the buying manager. Many factors can contribute to this trust deficit, including lack of interpersonal relationships. Managers across firms may also hide knowledge during their supply chain interaction if they believe that passing on such knowledge can produce an adverse outcome for them, or there is no personal benefit for them in case they pass on knowledge to their supply chain counterpart Furthermore, managers can also hide knowledge if their organizational culture discourages knowledge hiding. Employees may engage in behaviours contrary to their role expectations and further comply with corporate norms to keep their jobs secure. Another possible reason might be that managers across firms may do not like each other during their business interaction, resulting in deliberately hiding knowledge from each other. Arain et al., (2018) argues that knowledge hiding has a strong potential to affect managers' ability to explore and generate new ideas, implement change, apply new knowledge, or improve processes to enhance personal and business performance and understanding. Buyer-Supplier relationship literature in the supply chain on this phenomenon is rather scant and elusive. In other words, it does not tell us why managers of buying and supplying firms hide knowledge from each other during their supply chain interaction. The purpose of this paper is to unveil possible antecedents of knowledge hiding between managers of buying and supplying firm in the supply chain context through a pilot study.

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