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Submitted by williamelledgepe on


At a recent staff meeting I shared confidential information with my directs. I specifically asked them to keep it confidential. It is no longer confidential. Several people who should not know the information, do know. I do not know who shared the information with whom, but my admin believes she knows who spilled the beans. While I tend to agree with her, I am not confident and therefore hesitant to provide "feedback as if." What are my options? I do not feel like I can do nothing.

Should I make a blanket statement about the nature of confidentiality at my next staff meeting? Should I ignore? Should I give individual feedback to all my directs as if. Should I trust my gut, ignore my doubt, and provide feedback to the suspected individual as if?

I could say something like, "Last week I shared confidential information. It is now spreading as a rumor. I don't know who shared the information, but it got out. Can you help me keep confidential information confidential?" I could repeat this same phrase with everyone, but do it on an individual basis.

Should I take a hard line.


SuzanneB's picture

My recommendation is to let it go and not share confidential information again. Unless a person needs to know to perform their work keep it to yourself until it can be public info. Because as soon as you share it it will be public info.
I have never found a group of directs who can truly keep a secret. I don't think you should expect them to.

mrreliable's picture

It depends on the profession. If they're lawyers, priests, or medical professionals, confidentiality is part of their education.

I work in the accounting profession. Even for people who are legally obligated to tightly conform to confidentiality practices, I find it annoying at how many fail to do so. Hearing "amusing" anecdotes about clients at a family dinner or social event I've commented that, "You really shouldn't be discussing client information," which is met with, "Oh, it's just family."

If the staff are not educated on confidentiality, how to maintain it (those Privacy Policies you get in the mail from your doctors and financial institutions state their procedures), my thought about asking them to keep quiet about anything is, "What could go wrong?" I see about a 0% chance that telling a non-professional group to keep something just between you and them will maintain confidentiality, especially if it's juicy.

If you're going to require confidentiality, you need to develop and communicate specific written procedures, train, and provide penalties for failure to comply. People need to understand that when you say "keep this between you and me," it doesn't mean going home to your wife or husband and saying "keep this between you and me."

dharbison's picture
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now that the information is out, you need to tell everyone that it's not okay.  Otherwise they will assume that "confidential" doesn't really mean confidential and operate accordingly.  You need to remind everyone that it's not okay to gossip (because now that's what it is) adn that it makes it difficult for you to trust them and to share private information with them.