Author(s), Title and Publication
Liao, W., McComas, K. A., & Connie Yuan, Y. (2017). The influence of unrestricted information exchange on willingness to share information with outsiders. Human Communication Research, 43(2), 256-275. doi:10.1111/hcre.12104

Considerable research on information sharing within teams, organizations, and communities considers how information is shared within groups. Information-sharing with outsiders, however, has received relatively less attention. Beyond the inherent lack of trust and cooperation, sharing with outsiders carries considerable risk in comparison to internal information sharing, and can therefore be even more challenging. This study assesses social exchanges, the idea that people within groups are willing to help and communicate because of the possibility of reciprocity, the promise of the favor in some way being returned, some day.

Respondents (N=452) indicated the extent to which they agreed or disagreed on a six-item scale with statements on internal and external group information exchange. In establishing participant’s motivations for information sharing, the researchers focused on the connection between internal communication venues for information sharing and people’s willingness to share across group boundaries. Field research and social exchange theory literature suggest people are often the driving forces behind group norms or institutions that create information-sharing boundaries. And while commonly thought of as one insider group, employees are an evolving social exchange system made up of multiple insider and outsider groups.

Data collected from a highly-specialized U.S. growers group suggest people inside of groups experience more willingness to share general-level information with outsiders, however, as the information becomes more group-specific, and risk increases, the group members’ willingness to share information with outsiders decreases. This risk/reward relationship with information control has been associated with favoritism, solidarity, fear, loyalty, commitment, relationships, in-group benefit, and general social behavior.

Implications for Practice
Organizations should (1) pay close attention to the perceived boundaries of groups to help improve the communications within groups, even within teams (2) provide complete information to all groups to help minimize the potential for perceived feelings of favoritism, and/or competition in any particular group, (3) pay close attention to social exchange systems within specific groups, including specific group structure for information-sharing, and (4) institute feedback mechanisms to include the receiver, and reconcile reasons for willingness/unwillingness to share.

Location of Article
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Heidy Modarelli handles Growth & Marketing for IPR. She has previously written for Entrepreneur, TechCrunch, The Next Web, and VentureBeat.
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