What Is the Meaning of Confidentiality in the Workplace?

The level of confidential information varies by organization and industry.

The level of confidential information varies by organization and industry.

The ability to maintain confidentiality not only makes you a trusted friend, but can also make you a valued employee. Workers in many organizations have strict responsibilities for maintaining the confidentiality of both internal company matters and client relationships. Confidential information is communicated both verbally and in written form.

Importance

Confidentially is important for both practical and legal reasons. An October 2010 article by the Jules Halpern Associates law office noted that work confidentially typically falls into three categories – employee, manager and business. Companies must maintain confidentiality to protect against competitors gaining trade secrets and to protect the interests of customers, suppliers, business partners and employees. Employees often have access to customers' personal data, which must also be kept confidential.

Employment Confidentiality

Employers have a legal responsibility to protect the confidentiality of their employees' personal information. When applicants submit materials for job postings, they usually include names, social security numbers, addresses, phone numbers and other identifying details. Companies must maintain such data in a secure manner, or to dispose of it. If you send internal memos and employee documents through inter-campus mail, it is important to mark the envelopes "Confidential."

Leadership Confidentiality

Company leaders must preserve confidential information for both internal and external purposes. Company owners and managers often discuss high-level strategic initiatives and plans they don’t want publicized. To ensure confidentiality, they often withhold some information from front-line managers and employees as well. Additionally, company managers must keep organizational strategies and activities from the media to avoid unintentionally sharing insights with industry competitors.

Customer Confidentiality

Customer or client-driven organizations also face practical and legal burdens to protect the confidentiality of clients. Lawyers, for instance, must preserve confidentiality of information gathered from clients in a criminal or civil lawsuit. Healthcare providers must have patients sign release forms to transfer or distribute medical records because of patient privacy rights. Business-to-business sellers in certain industries must commit to preserving customer confidentiality to avoid sharing competitor information with other prospects or clients.

Technology

Internet and technology evolution greatly contributes to privacy concerns and the importance of confidentiality. Some companies require you to put confidential disclaimers on emails to let co-workers and external recipients know not to share information. Companies also have to invest in adequate security measures to prevent hacking and theft of internal documents and customer data. Healthcare providers have had to ramp up security systems and patient filing systems to ensure compliance with HIPAA patient privacy laws.

 

About the Author

Neil Kokemuller has been an active business, finance and education writer and content media website developer since 2007. He has been a college marketing professor since 2004. Kokemuller has additional professional experience in marketing, retail and small business. He holds a Master of Business Administration from Iowa State University.

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