Posted on / Updated on / in Blog & HR Consultants /

Rupert Murdoch’s company News Corps crossed the line.

How so?

Murdoch’s company is facing serious charges of phone-hacking, the ultimate breech in privacy and confidentiality. His newspapers shared information that they never should have had access to.

As the case unfolds, more and more high-ranked officials including the London Metropolitan police chief and assistant commissioner have resigned due to ties with Murdoch.

In a Parliament session on July 19, Murdoch denied knowing people in his company hacked the phones of celebrities, politicians, the royal family, and even a 13-year-old murder victim.

During questioning by a committee of Parliament, Murdoch repeated over and over how sorry he was.

But it looks like sorry isn’t good enough.  His empire is on the verge of collapsing as a result of the phone hacking scandal. One of his publications News of the World was already shut down.

If you think this problem is just one for the Brits to handle, think again. Murdoch’s $6.2 billion U.S.-based empire makes most of its money in America. Some of his most prestigious and profitable News Corps brands are Fox Broadcasting Company, Fox News Channel and the FX Network. His company also owns the Wall Street Journal, New York Post and the publishing company HarperCollins.

And now, the scandal is moving across the Atlantic.

The U.S Justice Department is preparing subpoenas as part of a preliminary investigation of News Corp. over two allegations. One of the charges involves the phone-hacking of 9/11 victims.

Also, new information about the hacking of actor Jude Law’s phone on American soil leaves the company open to prosecution under the federal law in the U.S.

The immensity of this scandal shows just how important privacy and confidentiality is in a business.

Here’s the bottom line: There are boundaries when it comes to gathering and sharing information. Murdoch jumped over the boundaries and now his company is falling off the proverbial cliff.

No matter the business, some information must be kept confidential. Even if you are in the business of writing stories and exposing the truth, you can’t hack into people’s phones to get information and share it with everyone. It’s illegal.

As the founder and head of the company, Murdoch should have communicated those boundaries and enforced them.

As the supervisor as your company, you must do the same.

Murdoch’s company shared information that it had no right to share.

What if this happened in your company? What is the wrong person got a hold of information and shared it with everyone else?

Let’s say the information concerns layoffs or terminations. An employee overhears or sees information that he/she shouldn’t.

Too much is at stake if this information gets out. If the information is leaked before the final decision is made chaos will ensue.

Here’s just a couple of examples of what could happen:

1. An employee whose job isn’t at stake may make the decision to quit avoiding the layoffs. If employees leave after hearing layoff rumors, operations will be jeopardized. You company will lose a significant amount of productivity and money. Read our previous blog on how to properly handle a layoff and take care of the survivors.

2. An employee may also act out when they think their job is at risk. Workplace violence is a serious concern. To learn more, read our previous blog on how to avoid workplace violence.

Now, how can your company avoid this situation and keep certain information confidential?

To avoid these situations, follow our steps to keep information confidential:

Be Careful

In order for this information to be kept confidential, all discussions concerning the topic need to take place in meetings not through emails. Emails can easily be forwarded to other parties. With one click, the whole office can know the supervisor is thinking about terminating employees. Hard-copy memos in mailboxes are also a bad idea because copies can be made or the memo can fall into the wrong hands. Keep folders on your computer containing confidential documents locked with a password. Also, always make sure you close documents and log off your computer when you leave your desk. That 30-second run to the bathroom can turn into a 30-minute discussion with a co-worker and your confidential files could be sitting open on your desk. The moral of the story: you can never be too careful.

Be Specific

Make sure you explain to all managers that the information is confidential. Don’t just assume they know it is confidential. Explain to the managers who in the company knows and does not know the information. Make the managers understand why the information must be kept confidential. Explain what could happen if other people in the company find out ahead of time.

Be Informative

Explain to your managers how they should respond to employees who ask a question concerning information that is confidential. Outline what they should say to the employees because employees are going to ask those questions. Humans are naturally curious. We are infamous in getting our noses up in other people’s business. Maybe one of your coworkers, who is also a close friend, asks you casually about termination details. No matter how close you are to this person, you cannot share this information. If you don’t want the managers answering questions, let managers know where they can direct employees who have questions.

As important as communication is within your company, it is also important to keep the lid shut on certain information. The success of your business can be at stake.

In the case of Rupert Murdoch, his company completely ignored the laws regarding privacy and confidentiality when they hacked into people’s phones to produce stories for their publications. He crossed the line and shared information that he had no right to share. The result: his company’s future is grim.

Follow our tips to make sure information stays confidential in your business. If you have any questions on the hiring or terminating process, our professionals have the answers. Contact us today to learn more.

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about the author: Amy Letke

Amy Newbanks Letke, SPHR, GPHR, is the Founder of Integrity HR, Inc. Amy provides workplace solutions to improve performance, reduce liability and increase profits. She is passionate about helping other entrepreneurs and business owners achieve success.