The motivators and effects of formalized knowledge-sharing between employees through knowledge management initiatives: A multi-case study approach

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Information Science and Technology


Robert Heckman


Employees, Knowledge management, Organizational citizenship, Knowledge-sharing

Subject Categories

Library and Information Science | Social and Behavioral Sciences


In the past decade, a business strategy called knowledge management (KM) has evolved to systematically acquire, store, access, share, maintain, and reuse knowledge from different sources. Within this effort has emerged an attempt to formalize the behavior of knowledge sharing.

This study investigated the phenomenon of formalized knowledge sharing within a KM effort. A formalized setting is one where the knowledge sharing does not occur through serendipity. Rather an employee seeking information utilizes a formal KM tool or process such as a map of internal expertise or an organizationally supported community of practice, to engage in knowledge sharing.

The purpose of this study was two-fold. First, it sought to identify what motivates employees to participate in formalized knowledge sharing. Second, it sought to identify and understand the effects of formalized knowledge sharing on the sharer. In particular, the study investigated whether the antecedents of organizational citizenship behavior (Organ, 1988) served as motivators for formalized knowledge sharing behaviors. It also employed research from the areas of impression management and knowledge sharing culture to help understand the sharer's motivations. Guided by social learning theory (Bandura, 1977), the study explored sharers' perceptions of personal and environmental effects that they attribute to the formalized knowledge sharing behavior.

Methodologically, the study used a multi-site, case study approach. Data were elicited via self-administered questionnaires, and in-depth, semi-structured interviews at two large organizations. The study's findings show multiple motivators engaged respondents at both organizations to participate and share in formalized knowledge settings. On the one hand, the role of fundamental individual goals in the display and quality of formalized knowledge sharing was identified via the interviews. On the other hand, the role of social exchange and personal/organizational norms in the display of formalized knowledge sharing was identified via the surveys. The study's findings also show respondents perceived multiple effects when they partake in formalized knowledge-sharing activities.

The study made contributions to several existing theories and proposed a two-factor theory of motivation for formalized knowledge sharing. The study's findings also had several pragmatic implications for the sharers, developers and designers of KM initiatives, and managers and leaders.


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