Is Confidentiality the New Privacy? New Post on Melcrum

In my latest post for Melcrum’s Internal Communication Hub, I take on the current concern about confidentiality – its future viability, and the likelihood of a backlash against transparency from old-school corporate managers.

The article, which can be found at:

also delves into specific challenges facing communicators in this environment, and some insights into how to communicate effectively even if channels start to close.


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1 Comment

  1. Graeme Ginsberg

     /  29/01/2011

    This is really thought-provoking – many thanks, Mike.

    I wonder if there is an inverse relationship also between levels of secrecy and quantity of false information circulated.

    As Rachel says, certain data and ideas need to remain secret for an organisation to retain its proprietary position, competitive advantage, etc, but without a certain transparency, particularly about broader, emotionally charged issues, the organisation could quickly find itself not just with an ‘unengaged’ workforce, but one that is confused, pessimistic, negative, feeling betrayed and aggrieved, etc — hence only too willing to talk out of turn or even talk falsely to damage the perception/brand of the organisation and do the organisation general but deep harm. At an individual level, this is bad news but just localised pinpricks in a rhino’s back, but collectively, this could have major impact. [That’s being optimistic about the individual – it could be some powerful language from an influential person in just the right platform (eg WikiLeaks)

    Degrees of secrecy may be particularly key during times of change for an organisation – answers to questions such as “Where is this company headed (and how will it be different from before)?”, “How are we really doing financially?”, “Is our leadership stable?”, right down to the detail involved in “How secure is my job?”, “How much am I being scrutinised at work by my managers (performance, general activities)?”, etc, can have massive psychological effect. And if employees are left to wonder about these without any concrete guidance, things are likely to get a bit ugly (rumour, aggrieved for not being “shut out and not let in on the secret in spite of our being the ones keeping the company going”, etc, as per first paragraph above).

    I suppose there’s a certain counter-intuitive thing going on here — during times of change, just when the ‘old guard’ may reckon it’s time to be cautious and provide one-word, evasive answers, this may be just the time to be even more transparent than normal.

    [Naturally, with the caveat that every organisation is different and every reason/response to change is different — which brings us back to the military and secrecy – even for such a mechanistic and extreme-crisis-facing organisation, opinion is, of course, divided about levels of secrecy needed/justified. This distinction between ‘need’ and ‘justification’ is, I think, an interesting one — what is actually (logically) necessary to preserve the organisation and what may be viewed as ‘necessary’ to uphold some broader moral obligations could be very different… [The recent financial crash comes to mind.]


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