Knowledge sharing processes and the role of attachment patterns

Matthew J.W. McLarnon, Ian R. Gellatly, David A. Richards, Ofer Arazy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Purpose: Past research on the motivational processes underpinning knowledge sharing has assumed that the sharing processes are similar for all individuals. Yet, sharing is a fundamental affiliative behavior, and the sharing processes can differ between people. This study aims to propose and test a model of the moderating influence that employee attachment patterns have on the theory of reasoned action (TRA)-defined knowledge sharing processes. Design/methodology/approach: The authors administered a questionnaire to 1,103 employees from a range of industries who participated in an online Qualtrics survey. Advanced forms for structural equation modeling and latent profile analysis were used to assess the proposed model. Findings: The results revealed that participants in the study exhibited the latent profiles corresponding to secure, dismissive, preoccupied and fearful patterns. The preoccupied cohort had the lowest knowledge sharing behavior, yet the strongest links within the sharing process. Secure, dismissive and fearful had similar sharing levels, but the strength of the TRA-defined processes differed. These findings underscore equifinality: although sharing may be approximately equal across different attachment patterns, the fundamental processes underpinning sharing differ. Research limitations/implications: The authors used self-report data, given that sharing attitudes, norms and intentions may not be overly amenable to ratings even from well-acquainted others. Further, the use of advanced analytical methods helps to minimize common method concerns. Additionally, causal mechanisms underscoring the TRA have been demonstrated (Ajzen and Fishbein, 2005), allowing us to explore the moderating role of attachment patterns. Practical implications: This study speaks to the importance of considering employees’ attachment patterns, and developing comprehensive intra-organizational norms, policies and systems that support and encourage knowledge sharing from employees with a variety of attachment patterns. Originality/value: This study uniquely contributes to knowledge sharing literatures by incorporating attachment patterns as moderators within the TRA-defined sharing processes. The authors provide important insights on the role of individuals’ attachment patterns have for knowledge sharing behaviors, but also highlight how structure of knowledge sharing differed across subgroups of employees, determined based on their dispositional attachment pattern.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1343-1365
Number of pages23
JournalJournal of Knowledge Management
Issue number5
StatePublished - 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Funding for this research was provided by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (PI: Ofer Arazy; Insight Grant #435-2013-0624).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022, Emerald Publishing Limited.


  • Attachment theory
  • Knowledge sharing
  • Latent profile analysis
  • Theory of reasoned action

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Strategy and Management
  • Management of Technology and Innovation


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