In our world of social media, we seldom discuss those professionals who safeguard secrets, focusing all too often on the decreasing privacy of those who broadcast their beliefs and thoughts on Facebook or Twitter. Yet for CEOs, CIOs, human resource managers, counselors, physicians, and many other professionals, confidences are a way of business life.
Sure, we understand the need for corporate secrets. Does everybody need to know each other's salaries? Is there any purpose behind openly discussing ad spending with the truck drivers? A patient should expect the doctor won't discuss her ailments with other patients. A business owner doesn't want the bank executive to share his financial situation with other patrons. And some information has to be kept quiet by law: You don't want the Security & Exchange Commission investigating you for insider trading, after all.
Leadership has its costs, however, and as a good manager, you are probably privy to quite a bit of insight into many of your direct reports' lives, as well as the challenges and opportunities your organization faces. Sometimes, secrets can hurt.
Although she didn't find a direct link between keeping secrets and being physically sick, Anita Kelly -- an author and doctor of psychology at the University of Notre Dame -- has studied the topic, and did find those who are "self-concealers" show anxiety, depression, and overall body aches and pains, reports Discovery.
Stress is one of the biggest side effects, many researchers have found, and as we know, stress can lead to all sorts of medical problems, from heart attacks to strokes. Sometimes, even more sadly, it can prove deadly.
Want to Know a Secret?
Knowing things others don't is part of being a manager -- but it can be stressful, especially when executives cannot share this insight.
In a tragedy that shook my Central Florida community last year -- and made international news -- a human resources manager shot and killed her four children, then took her own life. Beset by grief, despair, and a desire to never see this occur again, the Space Coast Human Resource Association wondered who the single mother could have turned for assistance. After all, as an HR manager at Ronco Electronics, her career often centered on keeping colleagues' information confidential.
Perhaps, association members thought, she felt alone in her worries. Bound by confidentiality, she couldn't share many of her job stresses with friends, family, or colleagues. (Other factors were reportedly involved, including alcohol, and at least one reported domestic violence arrest.)
Although it's tragically too late for Tonya Thomas and her children, the association hopes the employee assistance program for HR professionals, co-created with partner L-3 Communications at Patrick Air Force Base, will help peers today. The program was one of nine chosen from 65 applications to get recognition, a Pinnacle Award, from the national Society for Human Resource Management.
The online-based program includes services from trained HR counselors and legal assistants. As Valarese Poole, one of the Space Coast board members who created the program, and an HR partner with L-3 Communications, told Florida Today:
We're so busy trying to make sure everybody else is in sync that we don't think about ourselves. But with the recent layoffs we've had in the area due to the demise of the space program, we do recognize that our HR professionals...[may be under] another level of stress.
The same could be said for any executive. How do you cope?
— Alison Diana , ThinkerNet Editor, Internet Evolution