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An Examination of the Factors that Influence Whether Newcomers Protect or Share Secrets of their Former Employers


  • David R. Hannah


This research investigated the factors that influence a decision that is often faced by employees who have made a transition from one organization to another: the decision about whether to protect secrets of their former employer or to share them with their new co-workers. A total of 111 employees from two high-tech companies participated in interviews. Their comments were analysed and, based on both relevant literature and the results of that analysis, a theory of the factors that influence newcomers' protect vs. share decisions was developed. According to that theory, newcomers first decide whether or not information is a trade secret of their former employer by considering (1) whether the information is part of their own knowledge, and (2) whether the information is publicly available, general, and negative (about something that did not work). If newcomers decide the information is a trade secret, they then evaluate (1) the degree to which their obligations are biased towards their former or new employer, and (2) the degree to which they identify more strongly with their former or new employer. Newcomers whose obligations and identifications are biased towards a new employer are more likely to share secrets. If these obligations and identifications are balanced, newcomers may share information in a way that allows them to believe they are fulfilling their responsibilities to both their former and their new employers. Copyright Blackwell Publishing Ltd 2007.

Suggested Citation

  • David R. Hannah, 2007. "An Examination of the Factors that Influence Whether Newcomers Protect or Share Secrets of their Former Employers," Journal of Management Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 44(4), pages 465-487, June.
  • Handle: RePEc:bla:jomstd:v:44:y:2007:i:4:p:465-487

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    Cited by:

    1. Hannah, David R. & McCarthy, Ian P. & Kietzmann, Jan, 2015. "We’re leaking, and everything's fine: How and why companies deliberately leak secrets," Business Horizons, Elsevier, vol. 58(6), pages 659-667.
    2. Mills, Adam J., 2015. "Everyone loves a secret: Why consumers value marketing secrets," Business Horizons, Elsevier, vol. 58(6), pages 643-649.
    3. David R. Hannah & Kirsten Robertson, 2015. "Why and How Do Employees Break and Bend Confidential Information Protection Rules?," Journal of Management Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 52(3), pages 381-413, May.
    4. repec:dau:papers:123456789/5246 is not listed on IDEAS
    5. Delerue, Hélène & Lejeune, Albert, 2011. "Managerial secrecy and intellectual asset protection in SMEs: The role of institutional environment," Journal of International Management, Elsevier, vol. 17(2), pages 130-142, June.
    6. Hannah, David & Parent, Michael & Pitt, Leyland & Berthon, Pierre, 2014. "It's a secret: Marketing value and the denial of availability," Business Horizons, Elsevier, vol. 57(1), pages 49-59.
    7. Bos, Brenda & Broekhuizen, Thijs L.J. & de Faria, Pedro, 2015. "A dynamic view on secrecy management," Journal of Business Research, Elsevier, vol. 68(12), pages 2619-2627.
    8. Robertson, Kirsten M. & Hannah, David R. & Lautsch, Brenda A., 2015. "The secret to protecting trade secrets: How to create positive secrecy climates in organizations," Business Horizons, Elsevier, vol. 58(6), pages 669-677.

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