THE BLOG

Can You Keep a Secret?

15/07/2013 14:20 BST | Updated 14/09/2013 10:12 BST
Getty Images

Office secrets: when you know they're going around it can be torture not being in on them. Whether it's closed blinds on a managers' meeting, furtive internal emails or hushed whispers in the kitchen, there'll always be someone desperate to know what's going on.

Office secrets vary from the mundane (who's been stealing sandwiches from the fridge) and the salacious (who got a bit too friendly at the office party) to the damaging (the finance director has been sneaky with the funds) and far-reaching (the company is due to be taken over).

So when you're on the trail of some juicy gossip - who is the person in your office most likely to spill the beans? The sales team? HR? Or maybe even the CEO? We did some research into the people that colleagues were most likely to turn to for gossip, along with who were the most likely to dish to dirt, and discovered some interesting results.

We found that office workers' go-to sources depending on the type of information they were looking to find out about. To discover the company's financial expansion plans or to confirm the rumours about re-locating, people would turn first to a Director (38 per cent), while to get the low down on colleague spats, office romance or why an ex-employee really left the company, HR and PA's become the all-important sources of information.

However, those that people considered to be their top talkers didn't always correlate with those who were most likely to spill the beans on office shenanigans. While 64 per cent of those in HR admitted to having shared confidential information about the company, and 44 per cent dished the dirt on colleagues, marketing also ranked highly with over half having shared company secrets and personal information. And it's not just marketing execs and HR, senior staff and those in finance and IT departments are also prone to divulging confidential information.

What the study actually revealed was a worrying correlation between employees with the greatest access to confidential information, and a willingness to share that information with colleagues. When considering unregulated chat as a data protection issue, it is clear that the responsibility for company secrets cannot just be left to record managers and IT departments.

What is and is not appropriate to talk about at work can be confused and the lines often blurred. Talking shop within the office is expected and straying into personal territory may not be appreciated by management wanting employees to focus on work, or by those who are the focus of gossip. However, outside the office, management may be far more concerned if casual talk turned to sensitive company news.

While employees at all levels can't resist a really juicy piece of gossip, the company needs to be aware that unless they develop clear policies that inform employees on what information can and cannot be shared, some of that information could leak out of the business when employees clock off at the end of the day. Comments about a colleague's inapproproate outfit choice are unlikely to cause real harm but if you were to start sharing confidential company information about finance or strategic plans, it could have devastating consequences for the business.