This paper reports findings from a research project that explores reasons why some employees prefer to seek expertise to resolve work-related problems from direct colleagues rather than designated internal experts. Several studies suggest that while an expert generally provides a higher quality solution in a shorter time, workers tend to ask friendly or proximate colleagues to help with knowledge-based problems at work. Prior research provides only fragmented insights into understanding the barriers to asking a designated internal expert for help at work. To address this gap, we asked post-graduate students enrolled in a knowledge management subject at a large Australian university to share their perspectives in an online discussion forum. Content analysis of the collected perspectives enabled identification of twenty-one factors that may limit the seeking of expertise from a designated internal expert. The factors are grouped in four categories: environment, accessibility, communication and personality. In addition one context variable is described, determining the extent to which the barriers are influential in a specific situation. By synthesising the results, we have proposed two models of expertise-seeking barriers. A literature review helps validate the barriers identified by the study. Key theoretical and practical implications are also discussed.


Knowledge seeking, knowledge sharing, knowledge seeking barriers, advice networks


ISBN: [978-1-86435-644-1]; Full paper