Conquer Conflict At Work/TALKsick Workplace Behavior: Withholding Information, and What You Can Do About It

Thursday, April 27, 2023

TALKsick Workplace Behavior: Withholding Information, and What You Can Do About It

Toxic workplace behaviors are really TALKsick workplace behaviors, and this week we tackle the act of withholding information

TALKsick Workplace Behavior: Withholding Information, and What You Can Do About It

TALKsick Workplace Behavior: Withholding Information, and What You Can Do About it

We do not have a toxic workplace, we have is a TALKsic workplace.

People do not know how to have conversations about hard things and it is having costly and deadly impacts in healthcare.

Among the offensive behaviors you might come across, withholding information is one of the most talksick behaviors because of its far reaching impact.

Withholding Information

Withholding information is also known as knowledge hiding, or knowledge hoarding. A person who withholds information is consciously and intentionally holding back information by being vague, unclear or avoidant with colleagues as a means of establishing power over others.

Withholding information can be difficult to identify, and is often an observation made after someone has experienced the impact of this action or something has gone wrong in the workplace.

What it looks like:

  • Holding back all the information, i.e. pretend they have not heard what is going on or what others are saying.
  • ​Holding back part of the information, the person shares only parts of the information and keeps critical details hidden
  • ​Share the information after the fact when it is no longer useful for the situation

Impact of Withholding Information

Withholding information affects more than the target, it has far reaching effects.

  • ​Individuals feel targeted, their careers are threatened, and may experience a wide range of physical, emotional, psychosocial symptoms. The actions taken in the absence of all the information may result in job action, loss of career and income, and loss of license.
  • ​Patients experience higher 80% more medical errors and experience increasing rates of harm and death due to breakdowns in communication
  • ​Organizations are losing $47 million in lost productivity as more than 60% of employees from a report by Joe Jhiang report having a difficult time getting their colleagues to share information that is vital to their work.

Example of Withholding Information: My First Hand Experience

I have experienced this first hand working as a military nurse and being tasked to support the local Air Show. The coordination and planning of medical support across multiple agencies was completed in advance and included communication procedures, roles and responsibilities, evacuation routes, resources and capabilities, etc.

My supervisor withheld all of this information, and my role, until I arrived on site 15 minutes ahead of my shift start. The information was provided to me at such a late time that I felt unsafe to complete my duties as assigned.

I talk about it in this week's Courageous Conversations Videos, where I share these weeks highlighted script on how to address Withholding information. You can watch it by clicking the image.

How to Address This TALKsic Behavior

The script I'm going to offer up here about withholding information in this situation is a post debrief conversation with a supervisor.

It's my understanding that there was more information available regarding this situation. I believe if I had known more, it would have affected how I performed.

Get your copy here

The benefits of this script

Patients are safer, employees are safer, organizations reduce litigation risks.

  • ​This script focuses on the details of the event, and not the personal characteristics. It shares your understanding about additional information which focuses you on the details and prevents you from resorting to blaming the person.
  • ​It points to a communication problem and the gap that exists between the knowledge holder and yourself, the worker.
  • ​It also shares that the outcome (your performance) would have been directly impacted, indicating that your efforts were directly correlated to the amount of information you had.

Building the confidence and courage to address these behaviors with individuals quickly is a needed leadership skill and expectation. Workplace bullies have told us that if the leader does not address problematic behaviors, they take that as consent and issues will escalate.
When leaders intervene and guide employees to make healthier decisions, organizations benefit as their stocks go up two to three times and they have a 50% lower turnover rate.

It is worth speaking with people about their offensive behaviors to a part of something better.

If you are a leader in healthcare and want to talk more about how you can be more effective in having these difficult conversations and creating a healthy workplace, let's talk. I am here to help.

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