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Who tells corporate secrets

Employees looking to discover corporate secrets are most likely to get confidential with the CEO, while those looking for the low down on fellow employees turn to a knowledgeable PA. This is according to research from information management firm, Iron Mountain.

The research suggests that one third of UK office workers (36 per cent) regularly share confidential company information with colleagues, and more than a quarter are passing on secrets about other staff.

Topping the office list of indiscretion are employees in human resources and marketing, with 64 per cent of those in HR and half (50 per cent) of those in marketing admitting to having shared confidential information about the company, and 44 and 36 per cent respectively passing on private information about their colleagues. Senior staff and those in the finance and IT departments are also prone to divulging confidential information, with personal assistants coming a close third when it comes to sharing details of colleagues’ private lives.

However, when it comes to discovering secrets rather than sharing them, the study reveals a significant mismatch between the people who we think will talk and the people who are in fact most likely to reveal all.

Most employees looking to learn something confidential about the business say they would turn first to a Director (38 per cent), with other job roles trailing far behind in popularity. For the lowdown on colleagues HR (18 per cent) and PAs (12 per cent) become more important sources, but chat-happy marketing barely registers. Sales teams are widely regarded as a negligible source of gossip and information.

Christian Toon, head of information risk at Iron Mountain Europe, said: “The study reveals a worrying correlation between employees with the greatest access to confidential information, and a willingness to share that information with colleagues. Companies need to realise that responsibility for information security should not be left to records managers and IT departments. Data protection is no longer a niche issue, every employee has a role to play. Information security is as much about embedding a culture of information responsibility in the workplace as it is about data protection and the effective management of sensitive information. It’s as much about recognising the data privacy rights of co-workers as it is about protecting customer information. Gossip and a genuine personal interest in our fellow workers are inevitable but companies would be well advised to develop and implement clear policies that inform employees on what information can and cannot be shared. What may seem like coffee chat in the office could soon be shared outside the business when employees clock off.”

THE OFFICE SCALE OF DISCRETION: WHO TALKS

Has shared with colleagues confidential information about the business (per cent)

HR 64

Marketing 50

IT 46

Director-level and above 42

Finance 42

Legal 39

PA 33

Sales 35

Has shared with colleagues confidential information about other staff (per cent)

HR 44

Finance 37

IT 37

Marketing 36

PA 26

Sales 25

Director-level and above 24

Legal 15

THE OFFICE SCALE OF DISCRETION: WHO WE THINK WILL TALK

Who employees turn to first for confidential information about the business (per cent)

Director-level and above 38

HR 18

PA 12

Legal 8

Finance 3

IT 4

Marketing 2

Sales 0

Who employees turn to first for confidential information about other staff (per cent)

HR 29

Director-level and above 22

PA 17

Legal 4

IT 4

Finance 2

Marketing 2

Sales 0

The Iron Mountain study questioned adults in the UK, France, Germany, Spain and the Netherlands.

About Iron Mountain:

Iron Mountain Incorporated (NYSE: IRM) is a US-based provider of storage and information management. The company’s real estate network of 64 million square feet is across more than 1,000 facilities in 35 countries. Founded in 1951, Iron Mountain stores and protects billions of information assets, including business documents, backup tapes, electronic files and medical data. Visit www.ironmountain.co.uk


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