It is common for people who have a good relationship with their managers to tell them things in confidence. Most of the time, it makes sense for managers to keep such disclosures to themselves. However, there are occasions when they need to use their judgement and consider breaking this bond of trust for the greater good. This article discusses the issues relating to confidentiality in the worker-manager relationship.
It is generally the responsibility of managers to control the spread of gossip through an organisation; it would certainly not be professional for them to contribute to any such rumours and speculation.
People in authority may be privy to all manner of confidential data about their business and its workforce. But they have a position of responsibility, and have been trusted to maintain the confidentiality of this data. Where less senior staff need access to this information, the business will generally release it to them in an appropriate form.
The Good of the Company
The good of the many outweighs the good of the few. For example, if a manager is told something that suggests a worker could cause harm to themselves or others, their responsibility is to take measures to protect these people even if it means breaking the confidence.
When a manager is told something in confidence that could be against the best interests of the company, they have a difficult decision to make. Should they respect the privacy of the individual, and keep the confidence as a private matter? Or should they report the incident, benefiting the company but risking loss of the trust of the workers below them. Unfortunately, there are no easy answers to this, and it remains largely a matter for the conscience of the manager to make a call based on the severity of what has been revealed.
Confidentiality of Criminal Acts
If an employee admits to having broken the law, the people who have been told may become accessories after the fact, and may face legal action themselves if they do not report what they know to the authorities in a timely fashion. A manager may wish to advise them to confess their crime officially, which may lead to a more lenient punishment. If a confession is not forthcoming, the supervisor may have no choice but to make a formal report.
If a member of staff admits to taking illegal drugs, or to having some other form of addiction that could impair their work, it is appropriate to notify the human resources department. They should be able to offer support services to the employee, and to ensure they seek help and are monitored.
In life outside the office, some people are better at keeping secrets than others. However, at work, a manager has a responsibility to be professional. One mark of this professionalism is the ability to keep certain information confidential, filtering out the confidential parts from what is passed down to workers, and controlling what is fed back from them to higher management.
Sometimes subordinates will divulge information that really ought to be passed back to the company. In this case, a manager has a difficult decision to make: to keep quiet or to pass the information on. Making the right call takes training and experience, and it is the ability to take the correct action in circumstances such as this that separates the great leaders from the rest.
Hi I think my employer has breached my privacy. I handed my sick note from my doctor in to work yesterday to a supervisor as my manager is not in. However today I have been messaged by a non- management member of staff who knew my reason for being off sick & said that most of our department know. Surely it is not right for management to have shared my medical note with non management members of staff? Is there anything I can do?
Misssunshine - 26-Mar-17 @ 11:41 PM
Look in for some advice yesterday I received a phone call stating that someone was getting out of prison which panicked me as I am a victim of S.A . I called my manager to make her aware of the situation and that I wouldn't be coming into work that night as my head was up my backside. I returned to work today only to find out she has told another employee on my shift (only 3 employees on my shift including myself) that employee then lied stating she found out through facebook yet nothing was posted on social media at all and she could have only found out from my manager. Is there anything I can do I'm completely and utterly embarrassed and horrified that she'd disclose such sensitive information about me.
Crushed - 8-Mar-17 @ 4:03 AM
My payrollCompany sent my p45 to anothermember of staff. What can I do
Carlacorreia - 6-Mar-17 @ 6:09 PM
Hi. I have sadly lost 2 babys over the last year. I asked my manager not to say anything as i was not ready to tell people, when i returned to work i was
As horrified to learn she had been telling peole and gossiping.
Also i was signed off work during the pregnancy due to complications and she told people i was not ill really surely this isnt right.
Lauuzz - 4-Mar-17 @ 7:04 AM
@BigstanThe company can do what it wants - but to do this is just awful and demoralising. Speak to your employer and if you don't get a result raise a grievance! Kate.
CathyG - 3-Mar-17 @ 2:05 PM
Can a company post the amount of sick days each person has had off on a wall on show to everyone ?
Bigstan - 2-Mar-17 @ 4:23 PM
I am a manager now under investigation for breach of confidentiality. I was in a personal relationship with another colleague. She was trying to contact me one day and I replied to her stating I was in a disciplinary meeting with (Named person).
This was a private message between the two of us. Later (two months) we split up and she has now reported me and submitted this text as evidence. The business is looking to dismiss me for gross misconduct / loss of trust and confidence.
I have been reading up on the law and there are a number of things I understand that is a defence.
1. Article 8 of the strausberg human rights employment law - Everyone is entitled to private communication.
2. Statutory law and common law - for a breach to occur there has to be detriment to the person (no detriment, the person didn't even know I had sent the text to my then partner.
3. It must be of magnitude, not trivial. I did not disclose anything about why or the out come, only it was a disciplinary.
4. A breach cannot occur if the information is already in the public domain. The person whos disciplinary it was, was openly discussing on the shop floor with her colleagues earlier. As she had never had a disciplinary before she was asking other colleagues advise. Therefore it was already in the public domain.
Am I correct in my understanding?
Manager - 4-Feb-17 @ 12:40 PM
My work colleague didn't come in to work last Friday as his mum had been taken into hospital. He phoned the manager on the Thursday night when she was taken in to inform him of the situation and let him know in advance that he may not be in for work in the morning. He sent a text to the manager early Friday morning to confirm that he would not be in that day. Later that morning the manager phoned my colleague, not out of concern, but to ask if it was him that had stolen a box of co-codamol tablets from the managers drawer. Is this allowed?
AW - 16-Jan-17 @ 8:08 PM
Hi There , i started working for a company 6 months ago
It was nerve wrecking getting through my intereview aand explaining my crimnal record past 20 yrs ago, i am not the person i once was and changed settled down and have a lovely family
My past is my past
My manager promise she would not tell any other person about this
Now i am in tears as the staff all know about my prevouis convictions and trying to find away to bully me out of work
tee - 16-Jan-17 @ 11:28 AM
My manager disclosed personal medical and disability information in a reference.
Is he allowed to share such sensitive information without my consent?
Boo - 11-Jan-17 @ 9:00 PM
I work for a company that has contracted workers and time sheet workers. Whilst on maternity leave I had several phone calls to ask me to work as they were struggling, I enjoyed my job so I did my best to go in and help. My manager called me to hes office and asked me if I'd like to return as contracted, I accepted. One of my colleagues called me recently and told me my manager had then changed he's mind and told the whole office that I would no longer be contracted, is he allowed to tell people that information before discussing it with me? I hadn't even been called in for a meeting I had to call and ask him myself
Angie - 10-Jan-17 @ 2:48 PM
I've told my h.r department about a disability and also my personal manager. and now other managers who have nothing to do with me know about it. is this a breach of confidence?
Benji - 7-Dec-16 @ 8:42 PM
My manager took me into the office to discuss that I need to move to a different project (that's at least 2 bus journeys) and I had told her that if I was going there I would have to hand my notice in. She then asked me again if I had thought about the decision anymore and I said that (I still haven't made a definite decision). From a valuable sorce it has come to my knowledge that my senior has been discussing my personal employment information with other members of staff and I was just wondering ( seen as I have never spoken to my senior about it) whether it is okay for my manager to share my information with the senior if I had not given my blessing and if he was aloud to talk about it with other members of staff?
2931 - 3-Dec-16 @ 10:37 PM
SS - Your Question:
I told my director something in confidence regarding another co-worker. She promised me she wouldn't tell anyone, but she did. She told the other employee and he started to harass and bully me. He harassed me 2yrs ago also and that was why I didn't want my director to say anything. I filed a grievance with H.R and nothing was done. What are my options?
Your employer should have a written grievance procedure that tells you what to do and what happens at each stage of the process. After raising the grievance you’ll have a meeting to discuss the issue. If 'nothing was done' i.e, you were not satisfied with the outcome, your only option would be to appeal, please see gov.uk link here.
EmployeePrivacyRights - 30-Nov-16 @ 2:03 PM
I told my director something in confidence regarding another co-worker.She promised me she wouldn't tell anyone, but she did.She told the other employeeand he started to harass and bully me.He harassed me 2yrs ago also and that was why i didn't want my director to say anything .I filed a grievance with H.R and nothing was done.What are my options?
SS - 30-Nov-16 @ 2:59 AM
I recently had a strong difference of opinion with my manager about how Iam being managed, while she criticised me for my attitude to colleagues.
I have since learnt she has met up with my line manager from my previous job in another organisation. I have reasonable grounds to believe my current line manager has breached her confidentiality agreement towards me by discussing me with my previous employer. How do I proceed here?
CF - 24-Nov-16 @ 10:26 PM
I have a friend who had a supervision at the meeting the manager told her that another staff member told her what she had said about the manager but anyway we had a staff meeting and the girl who told the manager got ripped to shreds by staff and by the manager I walked out of the meeting with disgust my manager phoned me at home and generally tore a strip of me told her the meeting had been a slagging match and I was disgusted she allowed it to happen I'm now having a meeting on Friday for expressing an opinion am I wrong and where do I stand if she sacksaid me .
Scottie - 24-Nov-16 @ 12:02 AM
Hi, I had to come off the on call rota at work temporarily due to extreme tiredness assoc with early pregnancy.
My rota co-ordinator (senior to me) emailed a lot of people (not including me or my line manager) detailing the reason I was off the rota and the conditions of my sick note, as well as saying I "apparently couldn't cope".
I had previously told him I wanted my pregnancy to be kept private.
Has he just been tactless or unprofessional.
Sal - 19-Nov-16 @ 9:32 AM
I had told something confidential to a manager at a motel..and it was broken..I was hurt..now she had turned everyone against still spreading my secrets and talking g ugly behind my back and doesn't realize it gets back to me..then she doesn't allow me at the work place where my fiance works..I used to live with him took care of the place bent over backwords..now she rats me out and uses everything at my face..and it keeps continuing...what do I do???
Nemo - 4-Nov-16 @ 4:18 AM
Hi !i recently made a confidential statement against a colleague regarding threatening behaviour . I did not want yo make the statement but my management team promised complete confidentiality . I insisted my identity kept out of it as I had been threatened by colleagues previously because of the same thing and did not want people to know I complained . Unfortunately even though promised and was mentioned and promised twice in my interview my manager named me in a dismissal pack and put me in an impossible situation with my colleagues ! I am now being called a grass and been confronted daily and questioned ! Where do I stand ?
Maggie - 24-Oct-16 @ 9:56 PM
My husband has an outstanding grievance against a colleague at work over bullying and intimidation. My husband has been off work with stress now for 3 months waiting for the grievance to be heard and all the time has not been paid but he has not been fit to return until this grievance has been resolved. The grievance has been heard and we are awaiting the outcome, but on the night of the grievance, the guy that the grievance was against told another employee that my husband was off stressed because he had an outstanding tax bill which he was paying off through a change to his tax code. Now this information was only known by my husband and employer so obviously his employer has shared this information which it looks like they are trying to use to go against my husband. Isn't this breach of confidentiality and what can we do about it? My husband has been happily paying this through his tax code
SarahJane - 6-Oct-16 @ 2:41 PM
B - Your Question:
Hi I've recently told my manager that I've got a crush on her. I know I shouldn't have but I really liked her and I love her as a person and I thought she was amazing so I thought she just had to know in case I had a chance. She told me she had a partner at first, so I thought still that is not a proper no is it? So yes I flirted a bit too much and she has told her boss about this and has been saying that I was saying inappropriate things, I told her that I liked her and told her please keep it to yourself after she made it clear that I had no chance I stopped so can someone please tell me did she HAVE to tell her boss as she is saying this was the case that she had to tell her boss about this because it's her boss ?
Your manager had every right to report this, if your behaviour was deemed by her as inappropriate.
EmployeePrivacyRights - 5-Oct-16 @ 12:13 PM
I've recently told my manager that I've got a crush on her. I know I shouldn't have but I really liked her and I love her as a person and I thought she was amazing so I thought she just had to know in case I had a chance. She told me she had a partner at first, so I thought still that is not a proper no is it? So yes I flirted a bit too much and she has told her boss about this and has been saying that I was saying inappropriate things, I told her that I liked her and told her please keep it to yourself after she made it clear that I had no chance I stopped so can someone please tell me did she HAVE to tell her boss as she is saying this was the case that she had to tell her boss about this because it's her boss ?
B - 4-Oct-16 @ 2:31 PM
I recently left my last job who passed my wage slip and p45 onto an old work colleague as they thought I may see them sooner instead of posting them to me or asking me to collect them.
Surely this isn't right? Isn't it a breach of confidentiality?
Hario - 13-Sep-16 @ 11:52 PM
I been with employer 6 years . I changed sites last year and big mistake . the manager who i know hasn't liked me was hell. sarcasticcomments, it was horrible to where i would cry because I don't want to go work. I was off 5 months lasted 3 months then on sick since January.this is what gets to me . my manager knew I had tried to commit suicide.I spent some time in hospital.my partner took my sick note in manager wasn't there. the ladies said " how is paula doing "? as the manager had toldthem I had tried to kill myself. I was mortified. and it's only recently I have been told this
also I have an eating disorder.never admitted to it and never told anyone but in a meeting both my managers said do you know all your colleagues know you eat and then be sick.and being at work I didn't eat because of what I do do so by saying that makes me wonder if both managers have told my colleagues private and confidential information which surely they did not he know
i emailed my manager saying I felt uncomfortable with everyone knowing my problems . she said my colleagues get told things on a need to know basis. and that they have strict confidentialityrules.
so did my colleagueshave to know all about my problems. I'm more angry over what my colleagues said about why I ended up in hospital in January.I don't see why they would be told all this.
sorry for the rant I'm just upset, angryand embarrassed ... any advice would be great
receptionist - 5-Sep-16 @ 11:00 AM
Hi.My manager has breaches my medical information,what can i do? Ive inform HR about my problem and they push this information to my two managers. One of them did not keep my secret and he tells this to his GF. His GF have a sister and now all her family knows. A know this girl and she can't keep any information.What can I do. Should i report this to HR?? Help me please.
Gr - 3-Sep-16 @ 12:33 AM
My employee has breaches my medical information,what can i do? I did not tell anybody for a reason as i am a very private person and feel that they should not be able to get away with this as if i had breached there confidentiality i would have been sacked. Reply plz asap
fi - 6-Aug-16 @ 3:50 AM
Well my problem is that I have tried to fix a problem that kept happening and I told the manager what was happing and then the managers told the preson who turned her in for it so now she is bullies me on things now pushes me out and saying alot of mean thing to other employees about me and so I when talked to the manager and told him what was going on and I was getting bullied and the things people where saying all he really said was what he was told and turned it around on me said they are saying that I was trying to recruit them to leave for a nether job never once did I say that but it is my word against there's I started to cry tried so hard not to I felt bad I told him that's a lie I never did that did it matter no he said more then one employee has said this I was like really that is not right when they ask me where I have applied or they say try here this is open and I am like cool thanks.. just so you know I am part time looking for a full time so they know I been looking I have been at this job little over 2 years and this is happening to melike really I am sorry if it sounded like that but I really was not tryingrecruit them.. then I told him how can we fix the problem with the employee that is bulling me and he said what is this preson doing I told him what was happening he fletcher that it is not so all I got was what do you want to do I said I have tried to talk to her she would not let me at all so I came here and he just said what do you wanna do bring her here and we sit down together I was like that won't work she is not going to care so pretty much he is on her said anyways how he made it sound.. so I went home thought about it I felt bad so I said I will apologize to the employees if I made them feel that way so I did so and one asked me why you apologize for that you did nothing wrong so I said I was told that I did that and other employees said that so I wanted to apologize I told that preson that the manager told me and I am sorry was I wrong to say where it came from I just figured it would make them happy to know I did get talked to so what do you think and was I wrong??
Cyn - 2-Aug-16 @ 5:48 AM
hi!my workmate posted our photo on Facebook 1 year ago and share it again without me knowing . She posted a misleading caption and comment.My relationship with my girlfriend was being affected because of it. I want her to apologize with what she did but she refuse too. Do i have the right to file a case against her? What case?
mark - 30-Jun-16 @ 6:46 AM
I recently handed in my notice and gave my employer over a month to find my replacement. I had many conflictswith one individual who targeted me for conflict and constantly made underhanded and undermining comments throughout the working day. I expressed this to my employer on many occasions, and although conversations with the other employee were had, improvements were not made. I had a very good job for my age, and I did not want to let somebody else ruin all the hard work I put in. Eventually I was prescribed anti-depressants to help me deal with these situations at work however I felt that the office culture was weighing me down to a point I had to put my happiness before my career. Upon learning that one of my senior management members had informed the colleague that made my life miserable that I was leaving. This prompted said employee to make a whispery comment in my ear that she knew I was leaving, and that to save an un-necessary stress we should make it easy on each other. Now, although this appears to be a reconcile, I new in my heart she was over joyed that she had broken me, and couldn't hold in the satisfaction of telling me she knew, and that she wanted a truce. Everything I had gone through was directly influenced by this Lady, I wanted to leave in peace on my own terms, without any comments from other staff, especially not from her. I feel very let down by my management as they knew this was a sensitive issue for me, I had technically served a two week period in which my notice and was doing them a favour my staying, so they had more time to find a replacement. I walked out. Everyone has there limits and I feel mine were met today. I would like advice on what implications this may have, I don't want to cause my employer any stress and wouldn't dream of taking them to tribunal, however I would like confirmation that the fact they informed another member of staff that I was leaving, against my will, was wrong of them.