Secrets – Their Use and Abuse in Organizations

In the latest issue of Journal of Management Inquiry, Carl Keane from Queen’s University, Canada considers organisational secrets. Here’s the abstract:

Organizational scholars, and most social scientists for that matter, have rarely examined the use of the secret in controlling organizational behavior. On one hand, organizational secrets are necessary for the survival of the organization; on the other hand, organizational secrets are often used to hide unethical and illegal behavior. In this essay, the author examines the phenomenon of the secret as part of organizational life, from both a functional and dysfunctional perspective. Specifically, the author illustrates how from a functional point of view, secrets can legally protect organizational vulnerabilities, whereas from a dysfunctional point of view, secrets control organizational members and prevent the communication of knowledge to others. Both processes occur through the construction of social and cognitive boundaries as a form of social control.


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