What Questions Are You Inclined to Answer? Effects of Hierarchy in Corporate Q&A Communities

Jingchuan Pu, Yang Liu, Yuan Chen, Liangfei Qiu, Hsing Kenneth Cheng

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


An increasing number of companies have started to implement corporate knowledge-sharing communities. Consistent with the observation in the offline setting, employees are less likely to share knowledge with individuals who have higher job ranks (i.e., higher-ups) in corporate communities such as online wikis and discussion groups. Given the importance of managers’ engagements in the community and the needs for knowledge sharing across the hierarchy, we examine whether such observation persists in the corporate question-and-answer (Q&A) community, another popular type of corporate knowledge-sharing community. On the one hand, as in the offline setting and other types of communities, employees can still be reluctant to share knowledge with the higher-ranked individuals in the Q&A community. On the other hand, a Q&A community has some unique attributes that can potentially motivate employees to engage more with the higher-ups. Using a unique data set from a large corporate Q&A community and a potential-dyads approach, we find that a user is inclined to respond to a knowledge seeker whose job rank is higher than (versus lower than or the same as) the user’s rank in the corporate Q&A community. We further show the causality of the result with a quasi experiment that leverages the promotions announced in our study period. Because these promotions are based on employees’ performances before the existence of the community, the promotion announcements are largely exogenous to our research interest. We also find that knowledge providers exert greater effort when answering questions from the higher-ups. Finally, our analyses show that knowledge providers who post more answers to higher-ranked seekers and who display greater effort in those answers are more likely to get promoted in subsequent years. Given the critical role of knowledge sharing and the increasing prevalence of online communities, our study offers a better understanding of the knowledge-sharing pattern in the corporate Q&A community of the hierarchical organizations and delivers useful managerial implications.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)244-264
Number of pages21
JournalInformation Systems Research
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 2022

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Management Information Systems
  • Information Systems
  • Computer Networks and Communications
  • Information Systems and Management
  • Library and Information Sciences


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