How To Handle “Confidential Matters”: A Delicate Duty and An Art


Efren Alvarez Galapon
Manager, Corporate Qualtiy, Health & Safety, Environment
Mobile Business Company Ltd. (MBUZZ)
Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
Mobile: +966 54 805 46 15

I recall asking this question to our lawyer-Director of International Human Resource (EMEA) some 18 years ago: “How do you handle confidential matters?” His reply was “Keep it here”—pointing his index finger to his temple.


In business settings, there are three areas in an organization in which top confidential matters are discussed, judged, concluded, and reside—these are the offices of the top decision makers, the Finance/Accounting and HR departments.

The word confidential is synonymous to the words “private” and “secret.” Everybody has a claim to privacy and secrecy particularly on personal matters and the same with company records and information.

Executive assistants or executive secretaries have access to the offices of executives they serve. At times they are given specific instructions to keep confidential matters they come across with from the knowledge of others. At other times, the instruction to them is never open anything marked with CONFIDENTIAL.

A Chief Financial Officer (CFO), for example, may bring a news clip about his company being cited for suspicious malpractice in financial reporting to his boss, the CEO, who in turn immediately calls for a special meeting. The matter is discussed; action items to be taken identified along with responsible persons. However, at the end of the meeting, no minutes are written except that certain knowledge is generated and digested then kept in the minds of the attendees.

In the world of “TO SEE IS TO BELIEVE,” where there is no RECORD of any undertaking or activity, nothing happened. The truth (confidential matters) remains a grey matter contained in the safe corners of the human mind.

In the courts of law, lawyers are paid for their services to elicit or suppress what are kept in the minds of the litigants and witnesses. In many instances, lies are uncovered but not the facts even when the people called to the witness stand swear that they will tell the “truth and nothing but the truth.” In the end, however, half-truths, near truths, and lies are ferretted but never the real truth.

The HR manager is the custodian of practically all the personal records (hard documents) of every personnel in a company—the so called personnel records.

The HR manager is likewise viewed in two different distinct manners: a pro-management or a pro-labor but never in between. Expectedly, he usually stays in the side of the management; otherwise, he joins the labor group.

Almost all sorts of employee-related circumstances come to the knowledge of the HR manager—promotions, accidents, warning letters, salary increases, etc. As such, he is the most knowledgeable person in the company of all the personal stories of company employees.

I remember our IHR (EMEA) Director in 1995 making a decision when he was brought with information that two women are claiming to be the wife of one of our engineers. He said: “He is married to what he declared in his file (records) with us.”

On the personal level, every single person (young or old) in this world has personal experiences of sort kept in his mind. Pleasant experiences (or memories) are usually shared with others especially to so called “friends”; or, they are even broadcast in today’s social media network, like, Facebook or Tweeter. But unpleasant experiences are well kept somewhere in a corner of a person’s memory fully guarded and only perceived trustworthy people may know about them; or, if it is too personal they will be kept forever a secret and will go with the owner in his tomb.

I feel privileged to be confided with well-kept secrets of some people who consider me their friend and as a trusted management consultant.Confidential matters have certain characteristics:

They have weight. Physically speaking, their weight is seen in the volume of hard-copy records of employees maintained by the HR department.

They are burdensome to the human mind. Yes, company or personal secrets occupy significant space in the mind of the keeper and they are burdensome and can cause illnesses. They are also manifested in the erratic behavior of a person, like, forgetfulness or irritability.

They are delicate and sensitive. The human pride is a person’s dignity; but behind that dignified mien are secrets that can shatter a well-managed public image when found and divulged by its intruders to everyone, like, in media frenzy.

They require special handling and manner of delivery. Hard confidential matters like business documents are handled with special care and are usually labeled with “CONFIDENTIAL” marks; and the manner of delivery is another consideration that they should never raise suspicion from the receiver.

As a duty, the handler of confidential matters is a matured and trusted person. The executives, CFOs, and HR managers are specific confidants in any company. As such, they are aware of their delicate duty.

As an art, the holder of confidential matters, like the HR manager, has a versatile personality. Oftentimes, he is called to wear different hats at different situations if only to deflect the possible usurpation of his baggage—confidential matters.


One Response to How To Handle “Confidential Matters”: A Delicate Duty and An Art

  1. Pingback: How To Handle “Confidential Matters”: A Delicate Duty and An Art | Industrial / Organizational Dynamics

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