Topic 14: Confidentiality


Topic 14 allows for the discussion of confidentiality and how the lack of maintaining confidentiality can be detrimental to organizational success. Building trust with employees is hard work that can be easily destroyed when confidentiality is violated. Inadvertent violations of confidentiality are still violations that are difficult to rectify.

Scenario 1: Mental Health Confidentiality

Terrence had an unexpected death in his family. He has been diagnosed as suffering from anxiety and depression as a result of his inability to cope with his loss. He informed his supervisor Michael of his situation. Instead of Michael informing Terrence of the EAP services of the organization, Michael sent an email to all of Terrence’s peers asking them to be aware that Terrence is suffering from mental illnesses because of his recent loss and to be alert just in case they witness Terrence’s performance declining.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Was Michael wrong to inform Terrence’s peers about his mental diagnosis? Why?
  2.  What can be done to solve this problem?
  3. Should Michael be terminated? Why?

Scenario 2: Learning Ability Confidentiality

Carol is responsible for training all of the organization’s employees. She meets with all employees to ensure that the appropriate level of training is available for each employee. Employees share their anxiety and concerns about having to learn new skills to keep their jobs. These conversations are very sensitive to the employees, and they trust Carol to keep their learning confidence levels confidential.

Carol’s administrative assistant, Melissa, has been privy to many of Carol’s conversations with employees. Some of the employees have been made aware that Melissa has indiscreetly shared some of their personal information and comments with other employees. The employees whose information has been shared no longer feel comfortable seeking training from Carol.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Do you think that Carol can win back the trust of the employees? If so, how? If not, why?
  2. What should Carol do about Melissa’s violation of employee confidentiality?

Supplemental Readings

Huber, H. E. (2001). Privacy and confidentiality issues in corporate HRD practice. Advances in Developing Human Resources, 3(1), 75-77.

Hughes, C., Lusk, S., and Strause, S. (2016). Recognizing and accommodating employees withPTSD: Intersection of human resource development, rehabilitation, and psychology. New Horizons in Adult Education and Human Resource Development, 28(2), 27-39

Kuchinke, K. P. (2010). Human development as a central goal for human resource development. Human Resource Development International, 13(5), 575-585.

McDonald, K. S. (2001). Confidentiality issues in management development. Advances in Developing Human Resources, 3(1), 78-80.

Wiley, C. (2000). Ethical standards for human resource management professionals: A comparative analysis of five major codes. Journal of Business Ethics, 25(2), 93-114.

Woodall, J. (2001). Adventure training and client confidentiality. Advances in Developing Human Resources, 3(1), 21-25.

Wooten, K. C. (2001). Ethical dilemmas in human resource management: An application of a multidimensional framework, a unifying taxonomy, and applicable codes. Human Resource Management Review, 11(1-2), 159-175.

Zafar, H. (2013). Human resource information systems: Information security concerns for organizations. Human Resource Management Review, 23(1), 105-113.

Zinzow, H. M., Britt, T. W., Pury, C. L., Raymond, M. A., McFadden, A. C., & Burnette, C. M. (2013). Barriers and facilitators of mental health treatment seeking among active-duty army personnel. Military Psychology25(5), 514-535.

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