I've taken the cognition to do some research:

My take is that there are generally (very loose word, very inaccurate, please feel free to edit with better words) two types of individuals when it comes to knowledge gathering and sharing.

Hoarders and Sharers.

Hoarders take knowledge and compartmentalize it to increase value, but primarily of themselves. Something breaks? It would appear that Bob is the only one who knows how to fix it. We can't fire Bob.

Sharers take knowledge and try to share it with their team and increase value of the people around them, this might make them replaceable, but they are also valued as a result but jut not in the same vein as hoarders.

There is a tech conference coming up and I wanted to attend on my own time (I am only 50%, so attending for work would not be viable). I asked my organization if they would be willing to pay for two classes and my transportation costs. Thus far, the reception was fairly cordial given the content. I believe that by attending, I would be able to accomplish two outstanding stretch goals for a project that I was assigned.

However when I started to pitch the idea, a comment was made by coworker A along the lines of "how much would what you learn, step into the job of coworker B?"

Now my intention wasn't to replace the coworker B, but to learn the skills needed to accomplish stretch goals that were set as part of the original design specifications.

I blundered in response on how my goal wasn't to replace, but to learn. Plus I was adamant with the idea of graduate school, so I would be leaving in the near future.

How should I attend to this present concern moving forward? Should I even give it the time of day, just move on and focus at the task at hand?

  • 3
    Can I remove the first half of your question? It doesn't seem directly relevant to your question. Commented Oct 12, 2017 at 4:15
  • At most I'd probably state somewhere in your post that your coworker appears to be a hoarder in at most one sentence, with as many links as you can reasonably fit in that sentence. Comments could work too, I suppose. Although my argument is that's your interpretation - I believe their response speaks for itself in that regard. Commented Oct 12, 2017 at 4:26
  • I would not readily assert the notion that the coworker is a hoarder, he/she is definitively knowledgeable and competent in their domain of knowledge. Nor would I presume their actions were borne of malice at face value.
    – Bluebird
    Commented Oct 12, 2017 at 4:29
  • In that case, I'm struggling to see what message you intended to send by including it. Wouldn't it be part of an answer? As in it's something an answer might suggest you try to explain to this coworker or your coworkers. Or are you trying to convince us that having some redundancy is good? Commented Oct 12, 2017 at 4:49
  • 1
    Actual question starts here: "There is a tech conference coming up...". The stuff before that should go. Hoarders and Sharers? It's irrelevant at best, confusing at worst.
    – Brandin
    Commented Oct 12, 2017 at 9:07

4 Answers 4


Learn all that you can to increase your value and share your knowledge. There is a third type which I like to be which is a "Knowledge broker". It's closer to the sharer type, but it makes you the "go to" person for knowledge.

Knowing someone else's position is always a good thing and you can put it forth with the very logical and reasonable BUS FACTOR https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bus_factor Stress this to management so that you have their support. If your coworker is a hoarder type, he may take it personally. Having the support of management will blunt any efforts to object on his part.

You are not trying to take over someone else's job, you are providing backup and support. Not only will you be able to back this person up, but also be able to teach another to help him if needed without distracting him from his work.


In my experience companies/managers generally wouldn't object to employee X learning the skills necessary to cover the responsibilities of employee Y because this has the benefit of reducing the dreaded bus factor. Assuming the upskilling didn't impact on the ability of X to cover their function of course.

Employee Y might object of course if they see it as threat to their position in the company and I've certainly seen that happen plenty of times - the "hoarders" you mention. Apart from in exceptional circumstances however it's bad management to indulge hoarders in perpetuating their ability to hold the company "hostage" to their skills or knowledge. That's not to say it doesn't happen though, it's just ultimately counterproductive.


I would just continue to learn and grow and ignore the concern. It doesn't matter that you could take over a coworkers job because:

  • There are plenty of people around who could do this anyway, in the company or outside it
  • You already have a job, so you don't have time to take over someone's job
  • Your coworker already knows the job and you'd have to be worked in from the start

There are only positive sides to having the ability to do someone else's job, such as taking over their work for a bit if they are sick, or helping them out when they are overworked.

I would not take these concerns seriously. Being able to do another's job isn't a bad thing.

  • True. Having only one person in a company knowing how to do something is generally a bad idea. You really don't want this key process failing completely if that one person is no longer available for some reason.
    – user44108
    Commented Oct 12, 2017 at 7:44

I would probably fall onto both categories.

Hoarders because I try to have a thorought knowledge of what I am doing., this has the tendency to make me view has an expert that is not so easy to replace. Sharers because I try to share a significant part of the knowledge, but usually what I think people need because I think they don't want to know every little thing that I know.

My vision of a competent team is the following :

  • Expertise : people that have a very deep knowledge & experience in few fields and develop some "strange instinct" (from outisders perspective) about what is wrong from very not so much informations.
  • Common knowledge : common knowledge shared between the coworkers, more shallow that experts knows. This helps communicate with the experts by having a basic understanding of his fields, describe the problem better for him, being able to understand better the answers of your expert.

In one conference you won't have the knowledge and experience of your coworker, however by having more knowledge of his fields, you will be able to communicate with him better and increase the producvity of the tasks that require working with him. Moreover if he's too loaded and is confident enough with your new skills, he could delegate you the easiest tasks and keep those that require his level for him.

So, the point that I'am adding comparing to the others answers (bus factor of 1) is that :

  • Even if you don't use those news skills directly, you will gain in productivity with your coworker by having more efficient communication together
  • You can increase producivity by having him off load some task to you if he's loaded and you're not.

It's like SE's site : if you have a problem and probably need a true expert to answer to your question, you have to understand enough the field in order to be able to provide an accurate description of the problem with all needed informations, and in order to understand the expert answer, having the knowledge of the fields wil make it way easier to digest.

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