January 23, 2012

Confidentiality in the Workplace

You're sitting at your desk at your internship when you hear an interesting new song start playing. It's so catchy you're practically dancing in your seat and you know it's going to be a huge hit. Even better, it's by your favorite artist who hasn't released any new material in four years. You reach for your phone to text your friends immediately and tell them all about it...but wait. In a world where your instinct is to share almost everything via text or tweet, that instinct could cost you your job, reputation, and even legal charges and damages depending on the circumstance. So what exactly do you need to know to be sure you aren't hurting yourself or the company you're working at? Here's some basic information about workplace confidentiality to help you out when you're feeling unsure.


First, know that you may be asked to sign a non-disclosure agreement. This essentially means that you will be required to agree not to give out confidential information that you learn while working or interning at the company. It's a legally binding contract that won't be negotiable and will likely be standard for all interns or employees. If you're feeling overwhelmed by the legal language ask a legally-inclided professor or classmate to explain it to you so you understand your rights and obligations. Be reassured though, that the company isn't out to get you by making you sign these documents. They are just trying to protect themselves and their competitive advantages.  Things that are particuarly important to protect should be marked such with words like "Top Secret" or "Confidential," so be sure to be especially careful if you are privy to this information. Also, keeping information confidential is particuarly imporant if you are working at a start-up where often times the ability to protect information about the business model can make or break the company's success.

Outside of the Office, Don't:


  • Share any music you are given by the company
  • Share info with the press
  • Discolse information from meetings you attend
  • Share marketing strategies
  • Share personal information from artists or other employees
  • Discuss new signings, hiring, or departures or artists or staff
  • Share facts about legal agreements, mergers, or aquisitions
  • Reveal info about business plans or materials
  • Divulge financial information about the company or its clients
  • Broadcast any information about your job online
  • Talk about unreleased music or other news
  • Talk about non-public information (info that isn't already available online, on TV, etc.)
  • Talk about fight club...oh, nevermind that one
 The general rule here is if in doubt, don't.

What do you think? Do you know of any cases where an intern got in trouble for sharing confidential company information?



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