The recent COVID-19 pandemic caused a severe economic downturn. Employees working in these organisations face employment uncertainty. The pandemic disrupted their daily routines, and it added a layer of complexity to the already resource-constrained environment. During these times, employees would conserve their resources to maintain competitiveness, one of which is knowledge hiding. While economic activities are resuming, the appearance of new variants could mean the transition towards endemicity could be put on hold. Hence, there is a need to rethink the behaviour of employees as they would have elevated levels of anxiety towards resuming daily work activities. Therefore, this study aims to address the question of understanding employees’ perspectives toward knowledge sharing and knowledge hiding.
Drawing on the conservation of resources theory, social learning theory and the social exchange theory (SET), a conceptual framework involving ethical leadership was developed to examine if knowledge hiding or knowledge sharing behaviour is a resource for employees during these times. The partial least squares method of structural equation modelling was used to analyse results from 271 white-collar employees from Singapore.
The results show that ethical leadership encourages knowledge sharing but does not reduce knowledge hiding. At the same time, knowledge hiding, not knowledge sharing, improves one’s perception of work performance. Additionally, psychological safety is the key construct that reduces knowledge hiding and encourages sharing behaviour.
Overall, this study extends the theories, demonstrating that, first and foremost, knowledge hiding is a form of resource that provides employees with an added advantage in work performance during the endemic. At the same time, we provide a new perspective that ethical leaders’ demonstration of integrity, honesty and altruism alone is insufficient to encourage knowledge sharing or reduce knowledge hiding. It must lead to a psychologically safe environment.