Purpose: The purpose of this paper is to examine whether there is a tendency towards appropriation or participation of the individual in the literature of knowledge management (KM). Design/methodology/approach: This is a literature review paper. In terms of approach, appropriation in this paper is referred to as the KM tasks assigned to individual employees by the management whereas participation is referred to as KM tasks determined jointly by individuals and management. Findings: The review suggests that while the participation of individuals is seen as important for KM, the KM discourse is visibly oriented towards the appropriation of individual employees and their knowledge for better economic performance of organisations. The review suggests that an appropriation of the individual in KM serves neither employees nor organisations, and that individual employees are meant to be valued participants in the development and management of knowledge. Research limitations/implications: The paper is concerned with the KM literature to study the appropriation or participation of individual employees in the discourse on KM. Consequently other streams of literature that address individual employees' participation are excluded from this study. Originality/value: The paper initiates a new research agenda for KM where the emphasis shifts from the appropriation to the participation of the individual in the discourse on KM practices.