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Podcast: Confidentiality at work

How important is confidentiality at work? and how much of my product offering as a consultant is the guarantee that whatever is told to me will be held in confidence? Are consultants professional secret keepers? and how much of our work is containing and sanitising misdemeanours offering them back as palatable organisational learnings? What or whom are we minding?
Following my previous post on confidentiality I invited Johnnie Moore and Matt Moore to talk about these and other confidential matters via Skype this morning and here’s the resulting podcast. Show notes follow and thanks to Johnnie for being the sound engineer on the project.
Download the podcast by clicking HERE. This is a 9MB file lasting just under 29 minutes.
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Show Notes
Disclaimer: These are a rough summary of the conversation accompanied by flexible/rough timings.
0.0 Annette
How important is confidentiality at work? and how much of my product offering as a consultant is the guarantee that whatever is told to me will be held in confidence? Are consultants professional secret keepers? and how much of our work is containing and sanitising misdemeanours offering them back as palatable organisational learnings? What or whom are we minding?
Introductions
How important is confidentiality at work?
0.50 Johnnie
It’s ‘very important’. It means different things to different people at different times – is it a way of addressing status – I had to sign an NDA etc. Sometimes it’s a status play. It is a way of entrapping the other person in something – am I doing you a favour or am I inviting you into a trap? It’s complex isn’t it?
2.08 Annette
How much of the conversation around confidentiality is in fact a seduction – around secrets?
2.18 Matt
One way of taking someone into your confidence is to offer them a secret and that has all kinds of levels and layers – does it happen once? Several times? And what happens when you break that trust?
Matt talks about his role as an internal consultant and how people entrust him with their secrets and the complexity of the messages and seductions contained within those secrets.
5.18 Annette
Annette notes that both Matt and Johnnie are talking about ‘intimacy’ and asks how we set up the conditions for that to take place. Psychoanalyst Adam Phillips talks about how we can set up the conditions for romance but there’s no guarantee that romance will happen – what kinds of ploys do Matt and Johnnie use to set up the romantic conditions for intimacy in the workplace?
6.32 Johnnie
Johnnie professes his interest in intimacy and his interest in web tools which foster intimacy.
Johnnie talks about the shift from confidentiality as control to a more open sharing of information via Open Space and other similar processes. He talks about relinquishing his role as ‘consultant confessor’ which has become an uncomfortable role. Am I getting in the way by holding a secret?
9.19 Annette
What burden is placed on someone designated as ‘knowledge manager’ to manage hidden knowledge – how does Matt manage the externalised ‘known knowledge’ with the internalised ‘unknown’?
9.41 Matt
Matt admits to being a hypocrite! The official versus the ‘real’ version of events often conflict. Matt then goes on to say how hypocrisy works in practice – including sanitising stories; the pleasure of being taken into someone’s confidence; the manufacture of intimacy and how hypocrisy functions as a social lubrication.
13.13 Annette
Consultants are also politicians in organisations and are we talking here about the context we create (or wish to create) rather than the content of what people are saying?
13.40 Johnnie
Creating explicitly ‘confident’ scenarios aren’t particularly enjoyable and neither do they work. Johnnie talks about how this works in practice.
15.43 Annette
There is often an assumption that the stories revealed in confidence have more truth than those revealed in public and also we are not capable of hearing or speaking truth in organisations. Does being an internal consultant add another layer to that mix?
16.23 Matt
Openness versus closedness is an interesting concept – we need to keep some things private. Matt is often asked to take sides – to join a tribe – and secrets are a way of extending this invitation. Matt talks about respecting the invitation while not getting pulled in..
19.15 Annette
Scepticism is useful – our relationship with secrets and confidences is influenced by splits good/bad; useful/unhelpful – can we strike a balance between them? Respecting what this intervention has to offer for this system?
20.12 Johnnie
Explicit confidentiality agreements can serve to shut down the sharing of confidences and sensitive information – the opposite is often the case. The paradox here is that less is shared when the discussion is explicit – when it becomes ritualised it becomes less effective. Johnnie talks about the difference between hard and soft trust.
22.07 Annette
There is a dance in negotiating confidence – in removing that dance we give a message that there is apart of me or thoughts I want to share that are unacceptable.
22.48 Johnnie
Johnnie asks about what that negotiation means – is it explicit? Is it implicit? What does it look like?
23.21 Annette
Annette talks about unconscious and non verbal negotiations that invite revelation – seeking permission to inquire about someone’s personal story.
23.50 Matt
We prefer to have soft trust – informal trust but we fall back on hard trust and the rules when that isn’t guaranteed and when there are issues of power and status at play. If you are genuinely sharing yourself you make yourself vulnerable and organisations are treacherous places…
25.07 Johnnie
Perhaps it’s our job to be the ones who are willing to be vulnerable – it’s easy to revert to rules but it’s useful to talk about our own vulnerabilities as it gives permission to those we work with to talk about theirs.
26.16 Annette
We have all kinds of things in our consultancy toolkits but feelings are the primary ones that I draw on
26.30 Johnnie
Suggests pausing the conversation there for now..
27.07 Annette
Thanks to Matt and Johnnie for sharing their thoughts.

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