Who is the office gossip in your company?

Who do you think is leaking company info to the outside world? According to a new study, HR and marketing are the self-confessed motor mouths in business...

by Michael Northcott
Last Updated: 19 Aug 2013

For all the talk of data protection these days, it’s surprising how many people don’t give a hoot who hears sensitive information. According to a new study, 36% of office workers in the UK regularly share confidential company information with their work colleagues, and more than a quarter also spread stories about other staff in the company. That’s bad news for the bureaucrats in Brussels, who are ‘working’ their asses off to ‘review’ legislation about data protection for both companies and consumers.

Amusingly the study, conducted by Iron Mountain, offers some fuel for inter-departmental warfare. It found out who admits to passing on sensitive info, and also what type of colleague is best to approach to find out the juicy stuff. The findings aren’t really much of a shock: it’s HR who admit to talking the most. About 64% of those in HR admit that they have shared confidential company information; and 44% of them admit to sharing information about other staff.

You’d think, given that HR bods actually admit it, that that’s where employees would turn first to get the hot goss. But in a second question in the study - who do employees turn to first to get their info - the result is slightly different. On issues about the company, people actually go to directors first (38%). Granted, when they want to lowdown on other staff, they’re back to HR, with a fifth (18%) saying they would go there first for the latest sensitive intel. Then it was PAs (12%) and legal (8%).

Of course, as any HR person will tell you, with great power comes great responsibility. The cavernous rooms full of paperwork that contain your CV, application, enrolment letter and even your formal warning and upcoming P45, are easy pickings for light fingered HR operatives. If you’re sensible, you’ll make sure you never give them reason to go digging…

Christian Toon, head of information risk at Iron Mountain, 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. 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.’ It’s worth noting that the study questioned workers in the UK, France, Germany, Spain and the Netherlands, so it’s not just the Brits who have a leaky HR problem…

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