Knowledge is Power
So, keep your mouth closed to keep it from getting away!
Did you ever wonder why it sometimes seems that communications is lacking within an organization or corporate culture? It is one of those frustrating situations that appear to put a halt to positive productivity. You meander around trying to gather hacked information that you feel is important, yet the one person that should know the whole story "doesn't know a thing." Then, at the last minute, the entire world shifts, and the one person that "didn't know" comes out of the shadows and becomes the hero because they knew the answer.
One of the reasons for such lack of information is "power." It is the ability to hold something back from someone and use that hidden knowledge to perform an action or create an imbalance to accomplish a task. If someone knows something and doesn't tell you the whole story, two of the more common reasons are: Need to Know and Power Plays.
Need to Know
With each individual corporate entity comes a corporate vision and a mission. The visions of Corporate America are to make money, survive, and advance technology, healthcare, etc. This vision and mission then trickles down the ranks of the individual corporations and is pieced out and delegated to each subordinate level. Each individual person contributes by becoming involved in one or more of these visions. In most cases, one person won't know the "big picture"; however, they do know that their piece of the pie will help to move the company toward it ultimate vision.
The job of a manager is to take a piece of this overall corporate vision and mission and develop a vision for his group and a mission for his subordinates. This manager breaks his part of the mission into feasible projects that, upon completion, bring the department, group, and company closer to its vision. The only person that usually knows the whole picture is your manager. Above him, only his manager knows the whole picture for his subordinate managers. This, until it ripples back up to the macro-vision of Corporate America.
All of this, just to explain a simple idea? But, it is essential to know why you're rarely given a larger picture of the piece that you happen to be working on. Three of the more important reasons are security, control, and focus.
- Security: If you know the whole picture, then you could potentially take off and do the same thing somewhere else. By only knowing a small piece of the whole puzzle, the company is less concerned that you would jeopardize their market advantage.
- Control: If you know the whole picture, then why would you need a manager? Somewhere in there, a manager must exist to ensure that everything that his subordinates are doing is directed toward a particular objective. Things have to get done and pieces have to fit together. In the middle, your manager knows everything that is important to your group and department and is able to control the individuals in the group by being the central point of contact for information.
- Focus: By knowing too much, managers are concerned that you might lose focus on your own piece of the puzzle. I've seen subordinates who knew everything about everything and they were so busy critiquing and mingling in worlds not pertaining to their work that they never completed anything that was assigned to them. It is essential to maintain focus on your specific objectives to complete your part of your group's mission successfully.
Power comes from the approach that your peer or superior will not provide a piece of information that is important to you or your job. In this way, it seems that they can use that lack of information to prod you into either looking for yourself or use it to maintain a submissive stance on your part such that "they have all the answers." In this situation, acknowledge that your manager or peer does have all the answers and allow them the opportunity to "impart some of their knowledge" upon you. In this manner, they are able to exert their power while you are able to pick the necessary information out of their ramblings.
Another reason for this approach is to create an imbalance to move a situation in a specified direction. By not providing a piece of information, the manager is creating a vacuum that you must fill. You can accomplish this by examining the missing information and defining or locating the missing piece. Another term for this approach is "delegation."
Realize also that it is not the manager's job to have all of the answers. They are in their position to determine and direct. You are there to define and resolve to achieve the necessary results. In most cases, whether you realize it or not, you are the one with the answers!
With regard to peers, an individual will sometimes provide disinformation, or lack of information, so that they can act on the information, as opposed to telling others and end up losing their footing, or power, because someone else acted on the information. In this case, you have two options. You can compliment them and allow them the opportunity to exert their power as you extract the information you need from their knowledge. Alternatively, you can find your own answers by searching for the answer through research, the gossip tree, or by asking other peers or your manager. In some cases, your manager will usually refer you back to the one who won't talk since they have "all the answers."
Don't get frustrated in this situation as your peers are working toward objectives just as you. Simply go back to that peer and confront them for the information you need. However, verify the information before you use it, as it could very well be misleading.
It is important to realize that, in most cases, the reason for lack of communications is not a personal issue against you. It is a professional issue used to obtain and maintain power and control. If you can learn how to manage yourself and your work within the confines of a given "information play," then you can conquer one of most confusing conundrums of the corporate culture.
Lack of information doesn't necessarily mean "lack of information." It usually means something else. Perhaps someone is about to be fired, a change is in the offing, an imbalance for forward motion is created, or perhaps there is a turf issue playing. Realize that if you feel that you have little information, look around and see what else is going on around you. You just may have more information available to you than you would want to know.
If you don't know the big picture now, prove that you can first handle the smaller pieces and then, as your prove your ability to handle the responsibility, you will eventually be privy to a larger view. At that point, you will be the one with the "power of knowledge."
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