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Seattle, WA 98116
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(206) 201-2181

Tandem Powered offers a full suite of Professional Resume Writing, Career Development, and HR / Business Consulting services.

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Tandem Powered's blog is dedicated to empowering readers by highlighting best practices in the arena of resume writing, career development, and organizational effectiveness, as well as by providing readers with an insider's view of the corporate hiring process.

Confidentiality and Your Career

Kent Nolen

Since I'm based in Seattle, many of my consulting projects are with organizations based here in Seattle.

A couple of weeks ago, I had a day of strategy development meetings with one of my top clients downtown. Returning from lunch early, I grabbed a coffee and went through e-mails in the lobby. Immediately next to me were two people having a work conversation that never should have taken place in a public space. 

Long story short... An employee was meeting with an HR leader to discuss inappropriate things that happened in a skip-level meeting (a meeting in which an employee meets with their manager's manager).

Because I am your HR doctor (*grin*), a few things I want to ensure you know:

1) Never initiate a work conversation that pertains to anything confidential in a public place. Ever. Just because you caught a busy person "with a free moment" doesn't mean you can have a sensitive conversation in public that should be occuring in a private setting.

2) Similarly, if approached, don't be caught off guard and enter into such a conversation. Find a 100% private location or schedule a time when you can meet in a 100% private location. Demand this even if the person is senior to you.

3) By "conversation" I mean not only personal things that pertain to your employment, but also any topics that can be tied to anything of a confidential nature (client information, NDA-related matters, etc.).

I'm bothered to know that an HR leader would think that a lobby is a satisfactory location for such a conversation. Just because you may see similar behavior modeled in your organization, that doesn't mean it's okay. Courteously state that you'd be more comfortable discussing said topic in a private location.

Workplaces are getting increasingly fast paced. Each day, slow down and remain grounded enough to do the right thing – to model professional, respectful behavior and to expect it from others.