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Business Ethics in the Workplace: Confidentiality and How it Should be Applied

Updated on July 9, 2011

Most people find it hard to keep a secret. Sadly, for some people it proves impossible whereas others can maintain the most stoic of poses as they respect confidentiality. No matter if, you can keep a secret or not, you do not have to work for the Federal Government to be required to maintain confidentiality. No matter what type of company information, you should take precautions in not relaying information that is not meant for outside ears. This topic falls under not only legalities of companies worldwide but it also falls under the topic of business ethics.

Treat all company information in a sensitive manner unless otherwise instructed

Employees need to understand that company information proves important. The heart of numerous companies relies on the ability of employees to protect information and yes, this entails keeping secrets. Competitors are always looming and are eager to receive an edge on their competition and relaying information can prove to the edge they are greatly need.

What information falls under confidentiality?

· Company data

· Facts and knowledge about the company

· Anything not disclosed to the public

The three things mentioned above are only a few of the tad-bits of information that falls under company confidentiality. This type of information can typically be identified by various means. If you are ever unsure what you can divulge, a good rule of thumb is to contact your local Human Resources department and speak to your company privacy officer. It is always best to take the time and effort to ask questions when you are unsure about the confidentiality rules and regulations of your company.

Proprietary information

This type of information is commonly labeled “trade secrets”. Proprietary information is what company competitors crave in order to compete in the market place. Some examples of this type of information are profit data, vendor information, marketing strategies and costs. This compilation of data can prove lethal in the hands of competitors.

Companies want to trust their employees

All information no matter the information from a business ethic standpoint should always be handled with the utmost privacy. Companies enjoy the benefit of trusting their employees with sensitive information. Some companies subject their employees to strenuous background checks, which aid them in determining who they can or cannot trust. Trust me; you do not want a reference from a company who has fired you for your inability to maintain the trust of the company. This can prove a serious black eye on anyone’s resume and or reference sheet.

Company rules and regulations are created for reasons

Companies cannot monitor everything employees say or perform which is why it is very important for your company to trust you. Your ability to maintain this trust is a clear-indicator of your ability to follow through with the rules and regulations of the company.

Breaking confidentiality can be grounds for termination

If you cannot maintain the confidentiality of your company, you will find that your inability to perform this task can be reason for termination. Relaying company secrets, no matter how large or small can be reasoning for your company being run out of business. The ability to main the confidence of your company will shine brightly on not only your business ethics but also your personal character.

Why do people break confidentiality?

· Self interest

· Excruciating circumstances

· Financial hardships

· Trying to impress people


It boils down to the fact that no matter your job within a company, business ethics does entail maintaining the confidence of the company who has hired you. Sadly, sometimes employees do not realize they are relaying sensitive information. This is why it proves imperative to ask questions when in doubt. Employees worldwide often times lose their jobs without knowing they violated company policies. This is why companies should always educate their employees to what company information is confidential and not confidential.


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