Confidentiality Guidelines

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As an assistant, you will be privy to confidential information. It is imperative that you learn how to handle this information and keep privileged information from leaking to the public. Following confidentiality guidelines will make you a better assistant and improve the level of trust that your employer has in you.

Your Confidentiality Duty

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Confidentiality is one of your basic duties as an assistant. You will have access to company secrets, employee records, and financial information. Failure to keep information confidential will damage your reputation and the reputation of your organization. In certain circumstances, lack of confidentiality breaks the law. HR will have information on this topic. You need to treat all information that you come across at work as a confidential. Do not share information with friends, coworkers, clients, etc.; unless you are specifically told that it is part of the public domain. 

Most breaches in confidentiality are not malicious. While it is true that some people are motivated by greed or revenge, a breach of confidentiality may be caused by attempts to impress rivals or clients. Extenuating circumstances may also cause breaches, meaning that accidental slips happen. You need to be careful handling confidential information. Never repeat anything that is related to your job, even when people tell you that they are cleared to know.

Be Diplomatic and Discreet

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As an assistant, you are expected to be diplomatic and discreet in the workplace and when socializing. You are in a unique position because of all the information that you handle. You need to be careful about what you say, who you say it to, and where you say it. Do not join in employee gossip, and never discuss sensitive information in a public setting. Be diplomatic about refusing to join the gossip. Reject the action but not the people.

As you separate important information from the unimportant, you will stumble across intriguing correspondence that you do not fully understand. You must resist the urge to investigate the information or jump to conclusions. Simply pass along information without asking hypothetical questions. Employers expect this level of discretion from a personal assistant.

Keeping Data Secure

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Due to the sensitive nature of the information that you handle, you need to take steps to make sure that you keep the data secure. The company should have security to protect physical copies of information, and you may have to lock your files. The data on your computer, however, needs additional security. Take a few simple steps to make sure that your information is safe.

Steps:

  • Check with IT to make sure that the security and software on your computer is up-to-date.
  • Do not open emails if you do not know the sender.
  • Create a strong password with numbers and symbols, and do not save it to your computer.
  • Enable password protection.
  • Lock your computer.
  • Encrypt files that are sensitive.

What to Do in Sticky Situations

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You will find yourself in sticky situations when you work as an assistant. You need to handle them carefully. The situations will vary. No matter the situation, your will need to implement problem solving to handle it:

Possible situations:

  • An employee gossips and drains productivity.
  • Your manager friends you on Facebook.
  • An employee shares too much information.
  • You believe someone is stealing from the company.

Problem solving follows a basic pattern: 

  • Identify the problem.
  • Look at the problem objectively.
  • Brainstorm ideas.
  • Identify risks and benefits of each solution. 
  • Make a decision.

Case Study

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An employee is brought in to help launch a new product. She is in charge of monitoring focus groups and reporting the feedback. The product is not complete and is still a secret. Everyone has been warned not to discuss the project. One day the employee is seen discussing the changes in design with some coworkers during lunch. The coworkers are not part of the project. When reprimanded, the employee explained that her friends wouldn’t betray the company. It was safe to talk to them, and she did not provide detailed information.