So, when I think something is baloney I usually rhyme it with a ‘schm’ prefix like this ‘confidential schmonfidential’. Or education schmeducation when someone boasts that without a University degree you won’t make it in today’s world. I say ‘education schmeducation’ because I know some good examples of success sans University degree.
And I think confidentiality is a bit of a farce in general. It’s a pet peeve of mine that confidentiality doesn’t really exist particularly in business. I have had first-hand experience with HR departments that are more like sieves than vaults. In one company I worked for, I had applied for a job in another department. The same week I applied someone from the company, but not from the HR Department, called to wish me good luck with the application. Besides submitting my application to HR and discussing it with my husband, I had shared nothing about this with anyone else. I hadn’t even told my supervisor yet. My husband didn’t tell anyone, so all things point to HR. This happened consistently throughout the company. What message did it send? It told me that there was a definite gap in our beliefs about confidentiality. And when I asked them about it they said applications were not confidential and it was responsibility to keep my supervisor informed. And they said they don’t know how that person knew. And that was it, nothing more, no ‘I’m sorry’ or ‘let me look into that and get back to you with an answer’. Nothing. In fact, I left feeling like it was kind of my fault and just the way things were. And there went more of my trust in them and HR.
Confidentiality is assumed trust. If I tell you something ‘in confidence’ then I assume you understand what that means and I assume you will not share what I tell you with anyone. Have you ever said ‘but they told me not to tell anyone, so don’t say anything’? Me too. And it’s wrong. I was wrong, you were wrong.
Confidentiality is becoming extinct. Do you think it’s why so many people are afraid of retaliation when reporting bullying or other issues in the workplace? If there was confidentiality, real confidentiality, wouldn’t they feel safe, taken care of and protected? My experience is that the people who are bullies or are playing outside the rules are the same ones who have ingratiated themselves to the HR department or other higher ups or they wield some power for some reason. Is that part of the reason they fear no reprimand when bullying or is it a flaw in the leadership?
If your leader shares out of turn, does that make it acceptable? Leaders are the example, right? So if they gossip or if they don’t keep your confidence or anyone’s confidence doesn’t that tell everyone around them that is acceptable, if not endorsed, behaviour?
If that’s true, then the reverse should also be true. If your leader keeps the confidence of his/her team and if they don’t gossip that too exemplifies what is acceptable. So, that means that leaders are the ones who we watch and who we emulate. That means that we are watching you and you are watching us.
Confidentiality doesn’t have to be a farce. It doesn’t have to be extinct. If we all commit to keeping it then we can all enjoy the luxury of it. I’m in, how about you?