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Worker-Manager Confidentiality

By: Matthew Strawbridge - Updated: 21 Jan 2018 | comments*Discuss
 
Manager Information Company Employee

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.

Gossip

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.

Keeping Secrets

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.

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If an employee makes an complaint against another employee indirectly to the manager via an email could the complaint then be told to other members of the work force.
K - 21-Jan-18 @ 11:47 PM
If a complain is made to the manager indirectly via an email. Could then the manager or supervisors spread the complaint to other non senior employees? Or is this a breach of privacy and confidential act.
K - 21-Jan-18 @ 11:45 PM
My daughter had a termination and we had to tell her line manager, for time off reasons. We have since found out that told a lot of employees. This was after her left. What’s the legals here. Thanks .
Ian - 22-Nov-17 @ 11:58 AM
@Leanne - your husband definitely has room to complain!
Hele78 - 10-Nov-17 @ 2:03 PM
Can anyone advise? My husband left his accountancy job and because he left before a certain time period had to pay back study fees. He has paid this off on a monthly basis. This evening a friend of his (who is also now a manager in the company) contacted him by text message saying he still owes money and can he pass his email address on. My husband is really unhappy that his friend has been asked to contact him and obviously told this information. Especially when he thought he had paid this fully. To me it is definitely unprofessional to contact him in this and my husband didn’t want to have discussions about debt he supposedly still owes with a friend who did not have knowledge of this until now but i also want to know if they have breached his confidentiality?
Leanne - 9-Nov-17 @ 8:33 PM
I spoke to my manager about something I had heard about something going on between two work colleagues. I mentioned I had heard about it and that people need to be careful because office gossips can ruin people's lives. My manager then went and told another manager what we had talked about and then that manager went and spoke to the person infront of others and now I am being blamed for spreading rumours when the only person I spoke to was my manager. Where do I stand with regards to making a complaint as my reputation has been tarnished and my manager and the person she told are the ones who made what I said public knowledge when I thought what I said to my manager was in confidence.
Ange - 4-Nov-17 @ 12:25 PM
Sassy - Your Question:
I was on a temporary contract and was verbally offered the job in that time another contractor contacted me for an interview and I the agency I was with also called me and arranged the interview. Unfortunately I wasn't sussecful so decided to stay in my current job. A week later I was called in by my line manager and was told Friday is my last day. I asked why and was told it was down to budget. I later that day before I left I checked their website and my job was being advertised. I asked the agency what was going on and they said they can't argue with the clients decision. I have now found out that the head of my department was asked by the agency if they had a problem me going to the interview who h he clearly did. I want to know if this is acceptable as they were asked by myself to not let my current employer know and it has now cost me my job.

Our Response:
Your only recourse is to complain to the agency directly. However, you have little recourse here as you are on a temporary contract and it is up to the employer's and the agency's discretion regarding what they communicate with each other. Your employer is the client of the agency and therefore their client will be the agency's priority. If you were looking for another job, your employer may have assumed you would be unlikely to stay long term.
EmployeePrivacyRights - 3-Oct-17 @ 10:18 AM
I was on a temporary contract and was verbally offeredthe jobin that time another contractor contacted me for an interview and I the agency I was with also called me and arranged the interview.Unfortunately I wasn't sussecful so decided to stay in my current job.A week later I was called in by my line manager and was told Friday is my last day.I asked why and was told it was down to budget.I later that day before I left I checked their website and my job was being advertised.I asked the agency what was going on and they said they can't argue with the clients decision.I have now found out that the head of my department was asked by the agency if they had a problem me going to the interview who h he clearly did.I want to know if this is acceptable as they were asked by myself to not let my current employer know and it has now cost me my job.
Sassy - 2-Oct-17 @ 8:48 AM
My line manager has just given me my appraisal. It was average despite how hard I feel I work for the company. My annoyance is that I don't believe she wrote it herself as I know her writing very well. I believe her husband may of wrote it, who does not work at our company. I confronted her and asked to do a sample of her writing but she wouldn't or couldn't as it obviously wasn't her. Is this breaking some confidentiality act as I thought appraisal were private?
Annoyed - 12-Sep-17 @ 6:14 PM
I was told by another coworker that our manager didn't like me and 2 other of my coworkers. My coworker heard it from another coworker because the manager told her personally that she didn't like us 3. So I went to my mangers office to talk to her about this. My manager denied the rumors by saying if she didn't like us she would just run us off or fire us. 1 of the 3 coworkers talked to her as well about the same issue and she said, I know your coworker (me) already talked to me about this. The manger went on to discuss in some detail of what we talked about. I thought when you spoke with management its suppose to be confidential? Is this a breach of confidentiality as well?
Dreamer - 7-Sep-17 @ 10:25 PM
I was expecting a call at work today from my doctor, that was coming to my mobile. The phone rang and i answered it but it was an agency calling about a job interview i went for yesterday. Before i could take the call outside my manager heard the person on the other end of the phone asking how the interview went yesterday. I was only outside a few minutes but on my return she had told another work colleague about the call and the content. The interview was taken on a half day holiday. Am i right to be really angry that she disclosed what my call was about?
Hells - 7-Sep-17 @ 4:59 PM
Hi, my fiance and I work together... Some reacent events that were not my fault, led to me being fired. I have not yet heard that I am fired by any manager. My fiance heard the manager gossiping about how I do not work there anymore after another employee asked if I could take their shift... What are my rights here? Should she be telling other people that I am fired before I even know???
GT - 2-Sep-17 @ 5:56 AM
My manager was told of sexual allegations against me which I can prove are false. She discussed them with a colleague not involved to see if she was approached by me for sex. Yet she never discussed these allegations with me. What are my rights on this. I've started a tribunal with this info and I intend to take this all the way.
Craig - 1-Sep-17 @ 6:20 PM
Where I work their is two sites but both run by the same rules. Last night on public transport a girl from the other site sat behind me in her uniform with company logos in full view. She does not know me as I have never been to the other site to work and I noticed her because of the uniform and name badge. (I am still in probation so don't have the correct uniform yet so she couldn't see I work there too) She sat and loudly slagged the company and colleagues off, she mentioned no names but it was evidently clear that she was talking about it. It was quite vicious what and how she said it and people on the bus could hear her. Do I bring this up to management as if it gets back from one of the other passengers they will know I was on that bus too and it may affect me if I say nothing
Safc1973 - 1-Sep-17 @ 7:24 AM
I recently informed my deputy manager about my pregnancy. As it's early days I didn't want every body at work knowing. I've found out he has told people in different departments and I'm really not happy about this as he has breached my confidentiality. What can I do about this?
Qwerty101 - 31-Aug-17 @ 3:06 PM
Lalala- Your Question:
Recently I have been having a really hard time at work as my manager has all of a sudden turned on me and I don't know what I've done wrong. She has bumped into my Mam outside of work and told her that I could be getting sacked amongst other private work things. Is this a sackable offence?

Our Response:
You would have to talk to your manager or higher manager directly about this in a bid to try to resolve the matter informally. If your managers ignore your complaint or you’re not satisfied, you can make a formal grievance complaint in writing, please see link here .
EmployeePrivacyRights - 31-Aug-17 @ 2:11 PM
Recently I have been having a really hard time at work as my manager has all of a sudden turned on me and I don't know what I've done wrong. She has bumped into my Mam outside of work and told her that I could be getting sacked amongst other private work things. Is this a sackable offence?
Lalala - 30-Aug-17 @ 6:07 PM
I need advise- my GM, AM and supervisors were all talking openly today in the middle of work about my drepression and anxiety and all the other staff could hear them it was really embarrassing and I'm pretty sure it's illegal. Also the GM is the worst for spreading roomers I have told him things in confidence befor and in the next 10 muinets the whole of work will know. I want to make a complaint but don't want to lose my job, what should I do?
Caz - 8-Aug-17 @ 11:29 PM
My employer sent a very personal and confidential letter along with private medical info to me by way of a workmate who hand posted it threw my letter box at 22:30 at night surely this info should of been sent in the mail marked confidential any advice ???
Ctay - 7-Aug-17 @ 11:56 PM
Lara have you resovloved this issue? Happy to help. Trade union rep -Don't worry not a militant employment law qualified. M
Micky - 7-Aug-17 @ 3:01 AM
Hello All Fell on this site by default. I have read your posts and I am amazed at the lack of help. I am happy to assist you the best I can. I will try and guide youn and you and sign post you to the best advice. If I can't help you.
Wonderwoman - 7-Aug-17 @ 2:39 AM
I struggle to work with a narcissistic colleague who has treated me badly since just a few days after I started in the company. I have confronted her to see if we could make efforts to improve our work relationship but that wasn't successful. The treatment still continues and ultimately it affected work ( motivation, the mood in the workplace, emotional wellness, amongst other things. So when my appraisal came I said it to managers. Who advised about setting up a meeting with her using a mediator. I didn't want to do this as it means confrontation with someone who you don't want to cause more trouble and make it even worse. Who wants to be ace to face with ge devil to prove to her she's wrong and she's treating me disrespectfully. She doesn't see she does wrong. This said person has recently given notice and I knew this was going to happen so didn't rock the boat and just told myself to live with it , it will all be over soon. To cut a long story short. "Said person" made a petty lie up about about me to my line manager. And my line manager responded by making work place adaptions for a few weeks. Ie : relocating me to a different office while said person works off her notice. But this wasn't the reasons given to me although ultimately I get the feeling it is. In my defence I set up a meeting with a more senior manager to talk about the difficulties. And update her to how the situation is and to defend myself about the lie and put the story straight. We spoke honestly about the ongoing problem and she also agreed that "said person" previously has issues with others and she wished I would have taking it further so she could deal with it officially. Anyway. All that conversation got back to "said person" through whatever channelsthat same day so my issue is to confront the manager with this. The manager has now left me feeling I can't trust her with anything confidential again. She is in breech of confidentiality and I want her to know I am not happy with this behaviour. How should I handle this?
Lara - 17-Jun-17 @ 7:12 PM
Hi, I have recently had a misscarrige, I went into work after going to the hospital. My boss was in Italy and she text me asking why I hadn't answered the phone at 9, I replied by telling her I was really sorry I was late and what had happened. She replied saying she was 'shocked' by my message. Maybe she didn't want to hear my bad news? I was upset by this as I was already feeling very emotional. I carried on with my day and after work found myself in a lot of things pain, I headed to a and e where I was given morphine then had the baby surgically removed to stop the pain. I hadn't checked my phone as it was the last of my worries, when I did I saw a message from my boss asking if I could come in early. I replied apologising saying I had Togo back to the hospital I didn't mention in detail as I didn't want to 'shock' her again and said I wouldn't be able to go in atall, I got a nasty reply saying I've let her down and that it is very inconvenient for her, at this point I was extremely angry. Me losing my baby was an inconvenience for her. Does she have a heart? The next thing I know I receive a disgustingtext from her lying that was meant for someone else saying that a friend of mine (we don't have anyone mutual) saying I had an abortion and that I seemed happy about it and that I had time off the week before (I didn't have any time of the week before) I was so angry I confronted her and she still didn't apologise I told her she was absolutely disgusting with no heart and I quit my job. I was wondering if she had broken the law by lying about me and discussing my personal life?
Jade - 27-Apr-17 @ 10:22 AM
It was my manager who breached confidentiality. I reported this to my area manager who said that i couldn't do anything about it because the person that informed me of the breach was no longer working for the company. This troubled me for sometime and i still have sleepless nights due to this. Is there anything I can do.
Suz - 24-Apr-17 @ 6:17 PM
Sabz- Your Question:
I work as a medical secretary and I'm fairly new at the job. My manager had a referral for her brother inlaw and I did the referral the same I do all the others, she then proceeded to change my letter, she made a big deal that I hadn't rushed it through (even though it wasn't urgent) and basically made a big deal to the other department manager and got her brother inlaw seen the next day!! Since then she has made my life hell!! She has also once took a picture of another family members referral! I feel like I want to report her!!

Our Response:
If you’re a worker and you’ve tried solving a problem or concern informally by talking to your manager but you’re not satisfied, you can make a formal grievance complaint in writing, please see link here.
EmployeePrivacyRights - 21-Apr-17 @ 11:47 AM
I work as a medical secretary and I'm fairly new at the job. My manager had a referral for her brother inlaw and I did the referral the same I do all the others, she then proceeded to change my letter, she made a big deal that I hadn't rushed it through (even though it wasn't urgent) and basically made a big deal to the other department manager and got her brother inlaw seen the next day!! Since then she has made my life hell!! She has also once took a picture of another family members referral! I feel like I want to report her!!
Sabz - 20-Apr-17 @ 6:29 PM
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
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