How to Keep Things Confidential, Even Between Colleagues? Elaine Varelas advises

When you are privy to privileged information, you should always determine the other players in “the know” to avoid leaks. It can be difficult when fellow colleagues and contacts try to pry you for details, putting you in an uncomfortable position. Elaine Varelas advises employees on how to respond to such inquiries.

Ask the Job Doc.
Ask the Job Doc. –Boston.com

Q: A temp whose position ended continually texts me to ask about a job in our office that she applied for. Management chose someone else for the role but have yet to announce it, and the temp keeps asking me for more details even though I’m not involved in the hiring process. Should I share what I know with her, or keep that information to myself?

A: One of the best lessons anyone in an organization can learn is how to keep information to themselves, how to recognize what is your information to share, and what is someone else’s information to share. This is exactly one of those situations. Management made a decision, which did not include this temp, and they’ve not yet made this new decision public, which is, again, their information to share.

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You can let the temp know that her questioning of you is inappropriate if it’s making you uncomfortable. That is absolutely within the realm of appropriate things to say to help you create professional boundaries. Let her know that any questions she has about the role should be directed toward Human Resources or management. If you aren’t comfortable even saying that, you can simply tell her, “I’m not ever going to talk about hiring decisions, those get announced someplace else,” and leave it at that.

If you want to, you can take this information to your manager. Tell them, “So-and-So has asked me multiple times about her candidacy for this job. I’ve let her know that I don’t have any information. I just wanted to let you know that she continues to express her interest, and if someone can get back to her, that would be great.”

People who put colleagues into the position of sharing confidential information may sometimes need a blunt answer back. “Not my information to share. I wouldn’t tell you if I knew, so please don’t put me in this position again.” Otherwise, ignoring the issue may not make it stop. If you are uncomfortable with that, then you may be leaving yourself open to being bombarded by colleagues who don’t quite understand the concept of confidential information and are more than willing to put your position at risk, if not their own. Make sure you know how to create your own professional boundaries at work.

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There is always a lot of office conversation. Be very careful of the lines blurring between information, gossip, breaking confidentiality, and things that you wouldn’t want your manager to hear you say. Sometimes the information you choose to share is valid, and other times it may cause issues. If you are unsure where you lie, then err on the side of not saying anything.

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