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Workplace confidentiality can be defined as keeping the employee, customer and client information private. Usually, it is seen that organizations take a number of steps to ensure that client information remains confidential but when it comes to employee information, they may not be so particular. However, this thought process needs to be changed and the employers need to understand its importance, only then can they expect their staff to treat client and customer information with care.

Importance of Confidentiality at Work

Confidentiality is of paramount importance. It is the employee's responsibility to treat all the information in the workplace with care and caution. An employee should be prudent enough not to disclose any information that the organization considers sensitive and confidential, to a third party, until and unless the employee has consulted and taken permission from his supervisor regarding the same. Also, one should refrain from sharing any personal details with fellow colleagues at work. This helps to maintain a professional attitude at work.

An employee should know what files or materials he is permitted to access in the office and he should adhere to that. Under no circumstances should these files be shared or given to unauthorized people. This is because if it reaches the wrong hands, it can be considered as a breach of confidentiality and the employee may even be dismissed for it. Also, employees should not discuss any business dealings with the clients, outside work.

As far as the employer is concerned, any personal or professional details of employees should be handled with prudence. Data related to the personal details of an employee, applications forms, references, health data, salary structure should be kept well under wraps because if they are misused, it can lead to discrimination in the workplace. Only staff members of the HR department who require the data for certain purposes should be given access to the personal files of employees.

Maintaining confidentiality is important for varied reasons. The client or the customer can file legal suits against the organization if they feel that some secret information regarding them have been revealed by the organization or its employees. This can have negative repercussions on the business's reputation as well. So it becomes very important for the employees as well as the organization to protect information in the workplace.

How to Maintain Confidentiality in the Workplace?

The HR department should devise strategies and guidelines to ensure that workplace confidentiality is maintained. Here are some effective steps which can be taken to protect information.
  • The human resource professionals should take necessary steps to prevent the misuse of information that is personal. This is applicable to the HR department as well. Personal files of employees and the management should be safely stored to avoid misuse, loss or unauthorized access.
  • Once the policies are devised, the next thing to do is to communicate the same to all the employees, supervisors and managers. Training them about the confidentiality issues by giving them printouts of the policy or holding meetings and seminars in the office which teach the importance of confidentiality to the employees, should be done on a regular basis.
  • It is very important that the employees know which actions of theirs will be considered as a breach of confidentiality and what will be the consequences of the same, to deter them from doing so.
  • With most of the information these days stored electronically, to ensure its safety, sophisticated electronic methods such as firewalls, password protection, encryption, etc. should be adopted. This will keep the access, usage and transmission of the protected data, safe.
  • Disposing off sensitive information in the right manner, if it's not required anymore is equally important. The employer or the human resource personnel should do it in such a way that there are no potential leaks.
The privacy policies and guidelines should be updated regularly according to the new laws devised by the government. The same should be communicated to the employees to ensure their compliance. By maintaining the confidentiality standards in the workplace, an organization not only protects itself from legal hassles but improves the employee productivity as well by providing them with a secure and safe work environment.