Handling sensitive information in the organization

November 17th, 2013 @   -  No Comments

We come across a lot of sensitive information throughout the course of our lives. Some of that information is mentioned to us in confidence and some we get to know by accident. For example, we may overhear two people talking about a secret or we may come across information that may be damaging to others in the normal course of our work. Imagine an individual who is HIV positive going through a routine medical examination at work. In some societies, it can be extremely damaging to this individual if the information was leaked out. The HR Department should treat such information with extreme care.

Information, whether business related or personal, is a very valuable resource in any organization. As such, it must be managed responsibly. As a leader, how do you ensure sensitive information is handled properly by all employees? Do you have clear policies and procedures for the handling such information? Do you provide training related to the management of sensitive and confidential information?

I would like to suggest the following simple steps to help you manage sensitive information in the workplace.

Make confidentially part of the Organization Culture

Many professions, such as health care, legal, and accounting, have placed confidentiality at the centre of their professional culture. No respectable medical doctor or lawyer would divulge information about their clients except in extreme circumstances where there is a compelling reason to do so. No matter what the nature of your business is, it is critical to emphasize keeping sensitive information secret as part of your organizational culture. This will help build trust among your employees and grow your business since more people will want to work with you because you handle their information in a professional way.

Create clear procedures for handling sensitive information

People may inadvertently mishandle sensitive information because of their lack of experience in this matter. It is important to have clear policies, procedures and employee guides that help employees manage sensitive information. This should cover not only business related information but also informal personal information, which usually forms the bulk of office gossip.

Provide training around this topic

Creating policies and procedures for handling sensitive information is a great first step, but it is not enough if people do not adhere to them. People may not adhere to company policies and guidelines either because they do not understand or know how to apply them or because their old habits keep getting in the way. To ensure everyone understands how to handle sensitive information and the consequences of any failure, you may want to run internal workshops around this topic. These workshops should include both the technical (how to) and ethical (why) elements of safeguarding sensitive information.

Build stronger internal bonds

When you create stronger bonds between the employees and the organization, people will be more inclined to safeguard the interests of the organization and not divulge its secrets. Stronger bonds among employees also create a climate of respect which would result in people covering each other’s faults and weaknesses and keeping their secrets.

Sensitive or confidential information is a trust. One of the major characteristics of the believers, as defined in the Chapter “The Believers”, is “Those who faithfully observe their trusts and their covenants” (Quran 023.008).


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