Tacit Knowledge and the Labour Process
Virtually absent from the discourse on knowledge work in the new global economy are treatments of the question of knowledge ownership. There is a default assumption that knowledge yielded in the workplace rightly accrues to the employer, though much of it originates in the minds and out of the practice of workers. When that knowledge is tacit in nature, the question of ownership becomes even more acute. Tacit knowledge may provide workers their sense of uniqueness or identity in the workplace and may be an important yardstick by which they measure their worth to the organization. Tacit knowledge indeed is personal knowledge. Codifying and sharing such knowledge should therefore require the consent of those workers in whom it resides. This requires some sense of justice on the part of employers, as well as tactful human resource management approaches.
The new economy is characterized by job insecurity and severe erosion of the psychological contract between organizations and workers (see Suazo et al. Journal of Leadership and Organizational Studies 12(1):24–36, 2005). Thus, some workers may resist attempts to appropriate the knowledge upon which they draw to perform work if they believe that sharing could devalue their unique worth to the organization, making them more expendable. Social exchange theory teaches that workers are more likely to give up their own unique understandings for the greater good of the organization if they perceive themselves to be beneficiaries of the organization’s goodwill. The norm of reciprocity must be at play, where workers feel that they get value at work in return for giving up their know-how.
KeywordsHuman Capital Knowledge Management Knowledge Sharing Tacit Knowledge Knowledge Creation
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