We’ve all heard office horror stories of someone telling a co-worker an idea, only to have that person steal it and take credit for it when the boss comes around. But did you know that this situation doesn’t happen as often as you think—and that not sharing ideas with your co-workers could actually be detrimental to your own success?

A new study recently published in the Academy Management Journal found that hiding your ideas doesn’t lead to greater personal success—in fact, if anything, it creates a hostile work environment.

First, researchers found that idea stealing actually happens way less than people think; your co-workers usually don’t find your proposals as awesome as you do. (Sorry.) But even more importantly, hoarding your ideas creates a lose-lose situation, no matter what type of work environment you operate in.

For example, if you work in a competitive company culture (called “performance climate”) you may feel like you need to keep things close to the vest to get ahead. But you’re not likely to gain from it, “because in the tit-for-tat culture that prevails in such settings co-workers will respond in kind and the culprit's standing with the boss will probably suffer,” says Matej Cerne, one of the paper’s authors.

On the other end of the spectrum, if your company encourages collaboration and cooperation (known as “mastery climate”), there’s little to no incentive to hide suggestions, and doing so can make you look like you’re not a team player.

Bottom line? Open your ideas up to the floor—no one is going to steal them, and keeping them in won’t do you any good. Better yet, next time you're tempted to hoard your idea, ask someone what he or she thinks of it, and brainstorm together. You might come up with something better than either of you ever thought possible.


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