The longer you are involved in leadership, the more likely it will be that you will have access to or knowledge of confidential information. It comes with the territory.
The challenge becomes what confidential information you should share and with who.
Confidential data could be all sorts of things. Here is a list of just a few that you are likely to deal with:
- Performance review of a ministry employee
- Inappropriate conduct by a volunteer
- Important decisions that have not been made public
- Sensitive family situations of those you minister to
Some of this information, you have rightful reason to know about. Sometimes, you come across this information because another leader in the ministry told you about it thinking that you needed to know.
Maybe you do need to know. Maybe you don’t.
In any case, what you do with confidential information makes a difference. Sometimes you need to share the information.
But there is a fine line between having to share the information and gossip.
When I find myself in a situation where I feel that I want to share confidential information, I ask myself these questions to determine whether it is helpful to share the information or if it is gossip. If the answer to any of these questions is “no,” then I shouldn’t share the information. If I do, I am not being helpful. I am being a gossip.
- Do they need to know? Does the person I’m talking to really need to know? Most of the time, the answer is no. If they really don’t need to know, then don’t share the information.
- Does it help me get the message across? This is closely connected to the first question. Sometimes, sharing confidential information is important to clearly get a message across. But do they really need to know? Is there another way to get the message across without revealing confidential information?
- Are my motives pure? Often times, the reason I am most tempted to share confidential information with others is because I want to look like I know something that others don’t. This can make me feel powerful and important. If my motives are not pure, then I should not share the information with others.
- Is this person my boss? Confidential information usually should only travel up the leadership chain, not sideways or down. If you want to share confidential information with someone who is not your supervisor, then you need to have a really good reason to share it. My default is this: if the person I am talking to is not my boss, then I don’t share the information.
I have fallen into the trap more than a few times of sharing confidential information with others that was really about me being a gossip. That’s why I had to write this post. It’s mostly to hold myself accountable. I hope it helps you, too.
Question: How do you deal with confidential information?