Middle managers are the biggest hoarders

4 Dec 2007

Middle-aged middle managers are the worst culprits when it comes to hoarding documents, files and email, a new survey reveals.

The ‘Document Mayhem’ survey of executives in Ireland and the UK by content management firm Tower Software found that managers aged 45-plus are the most habitual hoarders of documents, files and email that they are meant to be sharing with colleagues.

Despite 88pc of employees at middle manager level or below needing to share computer files with co-workers, over 62pc store them in places other than in a shared computer network, and 59pc store such files in multiple locations, compared with 29pc of administration staff.

Some 17pc of hoarders admit doing so because they do not want people interfering with the files.

Almost two thirds of those aged 45+ say they store files in a particular way out of habit (63pc) and a fifth (20pc) is concerned with protecting their creative ideas from competitive colleagues. This compares to just 6pc of those aged 34 or less and 4pc of those aged 35-44.

This practice by ‘older’ employees seems to present problems for their younger colleagues too.

Three quarters (75pc) of those aged 34 or less find themselves unable to locate the current version of a computer file that colleagues have been working on, compared to 38pc of those aged 45+.

“The survey that questioned PC users in both public and private sector organisations suggests that the already challenging task of effective electronic document and records management [EDRM] is being further complicated by a myriad of ‘information creatures’ among employees,” explained David Oates, vice-president for Tower Software in EMEA.

“Upon closer inspection of these statistics, we can start to unravel the different personality traits and practices that are leading inconsistent enterprise information management practice.”

For example, the middle manager or employee aged 45 plus is wary of those around him and doesn’t easily trust others. Habitual and mindful of organisational politics and potential threats to his success, the ‘fox’ worker is wise and devious with his work. He has possibly been made redundant in a former role, or fallen foul of those more ‘sly’ than him.

Slightly younger and a team player, the ‘wolf’ perceives the need to work as a cohesive team or ‘pack’. Slightly braver than the fox, he likes to do what is most efficient and perhaps isn’t overly concerned with personal gain as he feels less threatened. More likely to work in the UK than the Republic of Ireland.

The youngest of the employees – the ‘puppy’ works in more junior roles and some of them still training. Making more mistakes than others and not always aware of them. The ‘puppy’ tries hard to please, but sometimes falls foul of the actions of those around him.

“This research supports our long-held belief that all EDRM projects are 20pc concerned with technology and 80pc about organisational cultural and people,” Oates continued.

“The rapid growth of our professional services business over the past three years supports our argument that a successful EDRM initiative stretches beyond the issues of software, systems, compliance, standards and so on.

“An increasing number of organisations are investing in specialist planning, training and change management expertise to ensure that employees are best motivated and equipped to properly manage documents, email and other electronic files,” said Oates.

Also worrying is that 1pc of employees are not sure if they save information with personalised file names or suffixes, and 2pc are unsure why they store files in the way they do.

By John Kennedy