Confidentiality in the HR profession

Most, if not all employment contracts have the confidentiality clause that requires every employee to keep all company information as confidential as possible.

For a Human Resource Manager/Practitioner, this clause usually is on another level. You are the only person in the company that is not only entrusted with company information but also the employees’ personal information, which are expected to be handled very discretely. You are like a confidant to the employees and that’s the reason why in order for any HRM to be effective, they must be able to build trust and rapport with their staff.

In my circle of HR friends, we joke that a HRM is everything; a therapist, a pastor, counselor, police, friend, mother/father etc and you must be able to transform into any of the above when need arises, on very short notice. There are some instances where you receive reports or complaints from staff that knock you off your seat but you must remain calm and objective. And this is what makes the job exciting because just when you think you have heard/seen the worst, someone comes with a new thing.

One of the biggest mistakes a HRM can make is be a loud mouth or gossip or use the very confidential information a staff has trusted them with to embarrass or humiliate an employee publicly. Discussing this kind of information during lunch hour with your click of friends is unethical. There are certain information about your staff that must be handled on a ‘need to know’ basis. They are only shared with other parties, mostly senior staff, only when they must be shared.

In addition to that, when an employee reports a case to you, it’s vital that you listen without judging, investigate and get back to the staff. Laughing at an employee when they are pouring their heart out to you is not only wrong but very unprofessional.

As a HRM, I do not expect my employees to like me, neither should you. But they should be able to trust me, with their information and problems; both work related and personal. They should trust me to listen, address them and make a decision. Sometimes, the decisions I make will favor them, sometimes, not so much……but that’s the job.