Proposing Knowledge Sharing as a Mediator Between Positive Gossip and Success of IT Projects

Proposing Knowledge Sharing as a Mediator Between Positive Gossip and Success of IT Projects

Habiba Shah (Riphah International University, Pakistan), Syed Danial Hashmi (Riphah International University, Pakistan) and Iram Naz (Riphah International University, Pakistan)
Copyright: © 2021 |Pages: 10
DOI: 10.4018/IJITPM.2021070103
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Abstract

Using evolutionary perspective of gossip and knowledge-based view, the study proposes knowledge sharing behaviour as the underlying mechanism that helps in establishing the relationship between positive workplace gossip and success of IT projects. The study used multi-source and multi-layered data collection technique; data were collected from 304 employees working in information technology (IT) projects within Pakistan. The study used peer reports for knowledge sharing behaviour, while gossip and project success were self-reported. Results of the study show that positive workplace gossip has a positive relation with project success. The study also found support of partial mediation of knowledge sharing behaviour between positive workplace gossip and project success. These results have crucial implications for policy makers and project managers of IT projects. The findings reveal the importance of informal social networks of project team members towards project success. Managers shall device such mechanisms that allow for propagation of informal networks and knowledge sharing. Keywords Critical Success Factors, Information Technology Projects, Knowledge Sharing Behaviour, Positive Workplace Gossip, Project Success.
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Introduction

Project success is the ultimate quest for project managers. Historically, the success or failure of any project has been seen within the context of the “iron triangle” (Atkinson, 1999). The iron triangle views success of a project in light of the cost, time and quality of the project. More recently, researchers have started to acknowledge the role of certain other factors specifically the humans (project management team) on the success of projects. Researchers working on the soft side of project success have identified the leadership of project manager and project team member’s attitudes and behaviours (Oh, Lee & Zo, 2019) as possible critical success factors for any project.

One of the most common behaviour of humans is to gossip. Despite of its universal acceptance as a common human behaviour, the research on workplace gossip is still an underdeveloped area in literature (Hashmi et al., 2019; Tan et al., 2020). Although, researchers have yet to reach a consensus on the exact definition of workplace gossip, it has been defined as an informal communication (written or verbal) about the colleagues in their absence or about the work processes (Nevo et al., 1993). Traditionally, gossip has been seen as an anti-social behaviour that must be discouraged within the organizational boundaries. However, recent studies on gossip have conceptualized it as a positive behaviour (e.g. see, Tan et al., 2020). More specifically, the informational perspective of gossip has been highlighted by recent research.

Gossip is a necessity for the working of informal networks because it serves as medium of information sharing and the constant flow of information within a network is what enables its members to make sense of their environment (McAndrew et al., 2007). Gossip helps individuals to look for the pieces of information and interpret them according to their knowledge base and also enhance their knowledge base (Kuo et al., 2015). Positive workplace gossip delivers more accurate information as compared to the objective explanations (Levin & Arluke, 1987), facilitates cooperation between group members and enhances levels of reciprocity and trust (Sommerfeld et al., 2008).

Therefore, considering project as a pool of resources to be managed by its team members and project success as dependent on the characteristics and mutual cooperation of the project team members, gossip between project team members can play an important role in the success of projects. The conceptualization of positive gossip includes informal communication regarding job specific work and learning from other colleagues. Job related gossip as defined by Kuo et al (2015) includes discussion regarding colleague’s job performance, interpersonal skills, diligence and dedication to work. Likewise, gossip serves as a medium of exchange of information within the informal networks of the project team. This information can be critical in nature and it might not be conveyed properly in a formal way. Further, as gossip occurs within an informal network, it enhances the sense of achievement within the group and thus the project team members become more inclined towards the achievement of project goals.

Social capital theory (Bourdieu, 1986) supports this assertion. Gossip specifically positive gossip helps individuals in gaining social capital that can help in achieving the project success. Research suggests that informal social relationships play an important role in determining social capital, transfer of knowledge, learning and communication within organizational boundaries (Huning et al., 2015). Thus, we propose that positive gossip within project team members can lead to project success.

Further, using knowledge based view (Grant, 1996); we argue that knowledge sharing behaviour is the underlying mechanism that transforms positive gossip within project team into project success. According to the view, the organizational/ project success is dependent on how the organizations manage the knowledge reservoirs and the knowledge resources (Felin & Hesterly, 2007). We argue that gossip is a source to acquire tacit knowledge necessary for the success of project. Specifically, in information technology (IT) projects (including software development projects) where data and information are a key to success of projects, knowledge sharing behaviour can be really important in transmitting positive gossip into project success.

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