I’ve accidentally leaked sensitive company information to key employees. How do I deal with it?
Dear Aunty B,
I’ve got a major problem. I manage a relatively large team in a medium-sized business and the other day I was doing some budgeting around salaries, among a heap of other 2013 planning stuff.
I had five or six spreadsheets open and I had to send one to three of my direct reports. Unfortunately, instead of sending the right document, I sent the spreadsheet with the salary of every person in the company.
I tried to retract the email, but of course that didn’t work. They are good people and I don’t think they’ll talk about the salaries around the office, but they’ve seen a pretty revealing set of numbers and knowledge is power.
How do I handle this one, Aunty?
Oh dear. First thing you need to do is to give yourself a big slap on the wrist. You know how important salary figures are and you simply haven’t taken enough care. It’s a rookie mistake, frankly.
After you’ve beaten yourself up for a while, it’s time to pull your direct reports in for a direct chat.
Admit that you’ve made a mistake but tell them they need to act like the responsible staff members they are and keep this information absolutely confidential. The document should be deleted permanently and not spoken of again.
They won’t need to be told that salaries are a very delicate subject with everyone who holds a job anywhere and the sensitivities of all staff need to be respected.
Finally, remind them of your company’s policy around confidential information (I’m sure you’ve got one) and the penalties for breaching it, which can include disciplinary action.
Act quickly and decisively and hopefully you’ll be able to plug the leak.
Your Aunty B