Date of Graduation

5-2017

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Business Administration (PhD)

Degree Level

Graduate

Department

Management

Advisor

Vikas Anand

Committee Member

Jennifer J. Kish-Gephart

Second Committee Member

Jonathan L. Johnson

Abstract

Organizational secrets enable firms to protect their unique stocks of knowledge, reduce the imitability of their capabilities and achieve sustained competitive advantages (Hannah, 2005). In today’s business environments, the loss of valuable proprietary organizational knowledge due to intentional employee disclosure represents a substantial threat to firm competitiveness. Anecdotal evidence suggests that firms in the United States lose more than $250 billion of intellectual property every year, with intentional employee disclosure accounting for a significant portion of these losses (Dandliker, 2012; Heffernan & Swartwood, 1993). Thus, understanding factors that influence such intentional secret disclosure is a key concern, especially in knowledge-intensive industries. While prior research has primarily focused on the disclosure of personal secrets, family secrets or ‘dark’ organizational secrets, very few studies have examined the disclosure of value-creating organizational secrets – i.e., strategic secrets that encapsulate knowledge about a firm’s plans from competitors and social secrets that create valued identity categorizations within organizations (Goffman, 1959).

This dissertation begins to address this gap in the literature by putting forth a person-situation interaction model of secret disclosure. Specifically, drawing on the resource-based view of the firm and social identity theory, it explores how certain characteristics of value-creating organizational secrets (e.g., market value of knowledge and social value of concealment) may interact with certain individual-level variables (e.g., moral identity and need for status) to influence employees’ secret disclosure intent. Using scenario-based surveys of undergraduate and EMBA students and a cross-sectional sample of working adults in the United States, this dissertation finds evidence for the key proposition that employees’ perceptions of market value of knowledge and social value of concealment shape their secret disclosure intentions. Individual-level factors like moral identity and organizational disidentification were also found to play important roles in the disclosure of organizational secrets. This dissertation contributes to the emerging field of organizational secrecy by integrating key informational and social perspectives to address concerns regarding secret protection in organizations.

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