Digital accumulation behaviours and information management in the workplace: exploring the tensions between digital data hoarding, organisational culture and policy

Kerry McKellar*, Elizabeth Sillence, Nick Neave, Pam Briggs

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)
19 Downloads (Pure)


Individuals within organisations necessarily hold data, some of it containing personal identifiable data. For those individuals with a tendency to accumulate digital data and a reluctance to delete it, the potential for data to be stored (and thus be at risk) is greater. Understanding more about why people engage in digital data hoarding, whether they recognise the data they keep and how they respond to the mitigations put in place is important. Eleven people (Men= 9) working in a large commercial organisation who scored highly on a digital hoarding questionnaire, took part in focus groups to understand the extent to which they kept digital data, including personal digital data. The focus groups also explored employee compliance with policies and procedures including knowledge of GDPR. Thematic analysis led to three themes: (1) Organisational culture versus digital hoarding tendency, (2) Thinking about personal data and (3) Responsibility and control. The findings highlight different motivations for data hoarding including anxiety driven by ‘blame culture’ as participants respond to workplace challenges and the need to be accountable. Participants attended training and were aware of policies including GDPR but often used workarounds to keep data longer than specified in their information retention policies. Technical approaches to data reduction were also sometimes counterproductive. Findings are discussed in relation to the potential threat of digital data hoarding and technical and non-technical approaches to reducing digital data retention.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1206-1218
Number of pages13
JournalBehaviour and Information Technology
Issue number6
Early online date5 May 2023
Publication statusPublished - 25 Apr 2024

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