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Worker-Manager Confidentiality

By: Matthew Strawbridge - Updated: 12 Jun 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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[Add a Comment]
Boo - Your Question:
I have been on the sick from work for 2 weeks as I have had too much going on and was struggling to cope, the doctor put it down to stress. I went back to work today and my manager made a comment on the shop floor, in front of everyone saying "aww your back, you look alright for someone who is stressed" I thought this sort of stuff was confidential? I was so embarrassed! Am I thinking to much into it or should I make a complaint. Tia

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 - 14-Jun-18 @ 11:54 AM
I have been on the sick from work for 2 weeks as i have had too much going on and was struggling to cope, the doctor put it down to stress. I went back to work today and my manager made a comment on the shop floor, in front of everyone saying "aww your back, you look alright for someone who is stressed" i thought this sort of stuff was confidential? I was so embarrassed! Am i thinking to much into it or should i make a complaint. Tia
Boo - 12-Jun-18 @ 10:08 PM
Hi I had a argument with the person I work with so my manager took me in the office and asked why, I told him it was nothing to do with work, I did tell my manager that the person who I work with owed me a lot of money he had borrowed him, 2 day after everyone knew why should he have told people, my friend who I work with don't speak to me now what can I do thanks
Coke - 25-May-18 @ 2:31 AM
Richie - Your Question:
My timesheet was put on Facebook by another employer what can I do about it?

Our Response:
You would have to complain directly to your line manager.
EmployeePrivacyRights - 24-May-18 @ 11:53 AM
My timesheet was put on Facebook by another employer what can I do about it?
Richie - 23-May-18 @ 4:36 PM
My employer posted my p60 to my previous address. Is this a breach of confidentiality as he knows my current address.
Amy - 15-May-18 @ 7:02 PM
@Roxy - If you have admitted to your manager that you are pregnant, then your manager has every right to tell your higher line manager.
FHL - 14-May-18 @ 3:25 PM
I told my supervisor that I was late because I ran to the bathroom to throw up due to morning sickness . She basically figured out I’m pregnant and I advised that I hadn’t said anything for personal reason and history of miscarriage. She said congrats. Well she ran straight to my manager with it and said did you hear the news about Roxy? Can she do that?
Roxy - 11-May-18 @ 11:56 AM
I worked at a GI clinic and was really good friends with my manager and her husband. I told her in confidence that I was getting a divorce and going through hard times and basically to just let her know what was going on with me if anything had came up for work. She had then went and called another coworker and told her what was happening in my divorce. Also asking a few more people during work hours if they had knew anything. Can she do that?
JayT - 1-May-18 @ 7:03 PM
Hi, My personal iPhone was reset because my employer locked it. I lost all my personal data - contacts, photos, etc. The iPhone was locked few days ago after months since deleting some work apps to access internal email I didn't need anymore (I received a corporate iPhone about five months ago). The deletion of those apps raised security issues, so few days ago when typing my password the phone was acting as it was wrong and ultimately got reset despite typing correct password. When I called the help desk they were not able to help. Now just giving an apology. I think this is a major fall out and other employees should be aware of it. I would explain the issue in more detail privately but please let me know what you think, how I should proceed and if there is scope to ask for a compensation. Thanks.
Sisi - 30-Apr-18 @ 10:03 PM
My assistant manager gave another manager a paper I was suppose to sign and he was not the department manager the assistant manager or the co manager of the department, it was handed to me outside the office, which had info about a problem, that should have been in confidentiality with my assistant manager and me in privacy, and it was not, how can I take care of this
Sonja - 26-Apr-18 @ 8:10 AM
Hi, I work in residential care Young person lodged a written complaint about me for not respecting his autism needs. He felt that I should not have been in kitchen making food whilst he was also in kitchen. Cut long story short it was investigated and upheld although nothing else really came from the complaint.. I have noticed that my manager /director has uploaded the full complaint all documentation for whole staff team to see on the computer Surly this is not acceptable? It's a breech of the young person and myself data protection and confidentiality
Fernie - 1-Apr-18 @ 10:54 PM
IS IT ANOTHER EMPLOYEE ALLOWED TO KEEP A JOURNAL ABOUT OTHER EMPLOYEES? ONE EMPLOYEE HAS BEEN TRACKING NAMES DATES AND TIMES WHEN SOMEONE SAYS OR DOES SOMETHING SHE DOES NOT AGREE WITH? I FEEL THIS BREAKS CONFIDENTIAITY IF THIS EMPLOYEE IF TAKING THIS BOOK OUTSIDE CORPOATION. THANK YOU
LINDSHAN - 1-Apr-18 @ 10:50 PM
i feel my privacy rights @ work have been breached by my superiors put a long story short i made a written declaration in reference to a child i care for after a concerning conversation between carer (myself) and child following workplace policy and procedure i forwarded my concern directly to the room leader then both furthermore to our acting director with then discussion between management team and the child's mother directly she was then given all factual information of the findings including my personal information aka was made aware of which staff member the conversation had happened with that included her daughters well being which @ that stage posed no risk to my personal wellbeing as were technically speaking on the same side in regards to the situation i was unaware of this meeting my first come to light of the situation was a day or so later when was called into the office upon arrival @ work in the morning my acting director assisted by the 2IC were both in the office initiating this debrief if would like to call it within that meeting i was told of the update regarding my declaration and that they had been in correspondence with the child's mother and that were now also in liaison with DHS regarding the situation the meeting basically was an informal heads up that the mother wanted to take the matter further and now coinciding with her lawyer as to the legal avenues of taking the case to court basically they told me she wants me to take the stand if so be the future outcome aka act as witness to support her case my superiors then continued to tell me that the business had been in contact also with their lawyers and after some discussion came to their conclusion to advice me not to follow through with her request under what grounds am not entirety sure for this reasoning but to put things simply if i do choose to follow through with it that it would be on a personal level not professional basically letting me know that i wouldn't have their support in decided to go ahead with upon conclusion of this meeting was told to expect a phonecall within the hour from the mother to talk directly to me about this request felt overwhelmed and rushed upon having to make a decision per say especially as within that time frame i would be on the floor working no chance really to think executively and come up with a decision honestly felt in some way the decision had very much already been made for me if that makes sense furthermore on four separate occasions now i have been personally approached during work hours within the business walls whilst on the floor as such working directly with the children in my care attempting persuasion of my advised decision not to follow through with their request after the second attempt and again expressing my advised choices relating this matter aka to take the stand or not i found the mothers attitude change slightly toward me abit she became quite stand over almost now an intimidation feeling to the contact bet
claire bear - 30-Mar-18 @ 1:41 PM
J.F - Your Question:
I work in a hotel as a housekeeper. My supervisor who is the Housekeeping Manager is my boyfriend's ex partners bestfriend which has caused some atmosphere and awkwardness but for the most part we are civil so I thought. I recently learned from the ex girlfriend that my supervisor was telling her what shifts I am working, when I'm leaving, when I'm off sick and why I'm absent. This information has made me feel seriously uneasy and it's just not right. Is this a breach of confidentiality and should I take this further to HR? Need advice. Thanks

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 - 15-Mar-18 @ 3:38 PM
I work in a hotel as a housekeeper. My supervisor who is the Housekeeping Manager is my boyfriend's ex partners bestfriend which has caused some atmosphere and awkwardness but for the most part we are civil so I thought. I recently learned from the ex girlfriend that my supervisor was telling her what shifts I am working, when I'm leaving, when I'm off sick and why I'm absent. This information has made me feel seriously uneasy and it's just not right. Is this a breach of confidentiality and should I take this further to HR? Need advice. Thanks
J.F - 14-Mar-18 @ 4:08 PM
If an employee makes an observation about another employee whether that be a manager or not. Is it okay that the person then goes and tells the person what has been said and who said it.
Runkid - 13-Mar-18 @ 10:55 PM
G - Your Question:
I have a recording of verbal sexual harassment in the workplace which I let the GM of the restaurant hear.The GM took it upon herself to tell the person involved in the sexual harassment recording and it resulted in a physical altercation at work which lead to me going to jail the person still there and I no longer work there. what legal action can I take??

Our Response:
You would have to seek professional legal advice regarding this.
EmployeePrivacyRights - 8-Mar-18 @ 11:30 AM
I have a recording of verbal sexual harassment in the workplace which I let the GM of the restaurant hear.The GM took it upon herself to tell the person involved in the sexual harassment recording and it resulted in a physical altercation at work which lead to me going to jail the person still there and I no longer work there.. what legal action can I take??
G - 7-Mar-18 @ 8:12 PM
@NLR - I think I'd keep your head down and ignore it. News travels in workplaces. You could speak to your manager and HR about it, but you might just make the situation worse again.
IzzyT - 15-Feb-18 @ 11:27 AM
Hedgehog haven - Your Question:
I have had an disagreement with a manager, and it has transpired that he discussed this issue and the fact that he was escalating via HR to others within my office and to people within an organization what I deal with.The issue occurred on the Thursday and I was advised by a person at another company of the escalation.On the Monday I received a letter from HR, I had no notification prior to the letter and my manager did not speak to me prior to getting the letter of investigation.Is this right and should confidentiality not be included,

Our Response:
If you feel your manager has not been acting appropriately, and/or your manager feels they have a disagreement with you and you have both tried solving the matter informally, a grievance can be raised, please see link here. An individual can raise a grievance for any matter or action that is deemed inappropriate in the workplace. Therefore, if you feel that the lack of confidentially is an issue, you can raise this with your employer.
EmployeePrivacyRights - 15-Feb-18 @ 9:35 AM
I have had an disagreement with a manager, and it has transpired that he discussed this issue and the fact that he was escalating via HR to others within my office and to people within an organization what I deal with. The issue occurred on the Thursday and I was advised by a person at another company of the escalation. On the Monday I received a letter from HR, I had no notification prior to the letter and my manager did not speak to me prior to getting the letter of investigation. Is this right and should confidentiality not be included,
Hedgehog haven - 14-Feb-18 @ 2:25 PM
I have been having a rough time at work, and it was showing in my attitude. I have been employed here for 9 years. I was pulled in by my manager and the HR director to be terminated. I became very emotional and pleaded for my job, promising to obtain professional help. I was given a second chance and not terminated. I emailed my manager twice, asking if anyone besides the three of us knew of the situation and that I was deeply ashamed of myself and did not want my coworkers to know about it. I was told that the supervisors were aware that "a conversation" was had with me. A couple of weeks later, I was informed by a coworker that one of the supervisors casually asked about me. The coworker said I was fine. The supervisor then said, "Well you know she was almost fired." I feel that this was a breach of my confidentiality. What do I do now?
NLR - 14-Feb-18 @ 12:51 PM
I made a complain about a senior care worker forcing a resident out of bed, the manager handed her the complain I wrote so she could see who wrote it, this is breach in our confidentiality and I was wondering what I can do about it as the worker as been saying things about me behind my back, is there anything I can do? Is this actually a breach in confidentiality? As I know they aren’t meant to pass on names let alone hand them the letter
Em - 29-Jan-18 @ 10:08 PM
@K - not if the other team members need to know. Other senior employees would have to know that a complaint has been made in order to be able to deal with the complaint.
ADE - 23-Jan-18 @ 2:20 PM
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
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