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Flowerbeanbag!!!! And other employment gurus - confidentiality issues advice please (long)

(16 Posts)
PavlovtheForgetfulCat Mon 20-Jul-09 19:29:50

Confidentiality being broken at work. Its long, so I will be brief.

I have a sensitive issue at work, of which I would prefer not to go into. This was being dealt with centrally by HR and then my line manager picked it up. Private information which she will told about by me was used 'against' me for want of a better word, indications that my personal life was not happy was taken into this dealing with this sensitive issue. She discussed this sensitive issue with others who had no bearing on it, and I complained both about this situation and the fact that I felt her dealing with this was inappropriate, via my union representative. HR Top dog explained it was passed to line manager as divisional issue to deal with. I was assured by my line manager that no-one other than those already spoken to about it would be talked to again about it and that those who knew had to know for xyz reasons.

Anyway, I have stepped up a gear I guess in dealing with this sensitive situation and my line managers response was that she would go to HR for clarification on one point, and then take it to the divisional ACO for further guidance.

I have already asked that correspondence relating to this matter be not sent via email as she has several PAs accessing her email, past and and present ones. She responded to my hardcopy letter by email. I have issues with the fact that at least 4 people more have access to this info now, and that she is taking this to yet another person who will need yet even more of my personal information discussed with them

That is my most recent issue.

On top of this, I notified her that I was pregnant by email when I was 5 weeks pg, before I found out that her email was not secure (did not think of it, and was told by a colleague that she now knew and to be careful!), and in this email I specifically asked her not to tell anyone that I was pregnant other than those who had to know by law (HR for example) and to notify me formally of those who need to know, and why, as it was early stages (and given that much of my private information was already in the hands of people unecessarily I did not want more confidential information divulged to people). She informed the ACO, in a conversation about something else that I was pregnant.

So, this is the stuff I know about. I do not trust how much stuff she talks about and to whom and I do not trust her with any more personal information.

On top of this, again - I have no risk assessment active, even though I told her when I was 5 weeks pg, even though I am now 23 weeks pg, and even though I have severe hyperemesis. She started it, and did not finish it as she did not know how to do some of it so needed to seek clarification. She has not done this, and as such my risk assessment is not valid. I am not confident that upon her return to work tomorrow (we have between us been off for the last 3 weeks) she will update it due to the new swine flu situation.

I just feel anxious about working with her. She does not know what she is doing, she breaks my confidence at every opportunity.

What I want to know is, apart from clearly going back via my union rep re the confidentiality, can I refuse to work with her? If I do, what course of action should I ask for? Moving teams would mean my personal info being shared again, as a new line manager means repeating it all (health wise at least).

Sorry its long and you might not think its a bit deal, but it is. I feel like everyone knows so much about me that I did not want them to know about.

PavlovtheForgetfulCat Mon 20-Jul-09 19:31:02

Oh sorry, to add to the confidentiality issues.

OH referral was done due to pg sickness, faxed by another colleague, a PA but not her PA, with personal info. Was done wrong, so redone, and yet another PA faxed this new info.

PavlovtheForgetfulCat Mon 20-Jul-09 19:31:42

And of course I know I missed the y out of flowerybeanbag's name in the title, too late after I pressed send! blush

PavlovtheForgetfulCat Mon 20-Jul-09 20:17:52


MadBadandDangerousToKnow Mon 20-Jul-09 22:29:39

I'm sure Flowerybeanbag and other HR bods will be along soon with good advice.

As a (quite long time) ex-HR bod, the things that occur to me are that line managers need (broadly and generally speaking) to be able to seek advice from HR when they decide. You're entitled to ask your line manager not to, but it's her decision and (ultimately) I think it's probably better for you if she is guided by advice from HR than acting on her own. Similarly, I can understand that you feel uneasy about other people knowing details about your personal life, but I think you have to accept that where people have secretaries/PAs, their secretaries/PAs handle much of their work and so are privy to sensitive information. I don't share your confidence that paper correspondence is more private than e-mail: who opens your line manager's incoming post or types the outgoing post?

Does your company have a standard confidentiality clause in its contract? If so, that ought to be some protection against people blabbing. As I said, I don't think you can control who has knowledge about your situation, but I think you can and should seek an assurance that they are aware of the need for complete discretion.

What advice have you had from your union?

PavlovtheForgetfulCat Mon 20-Jul-09 22:41:09

I agree with some of the things you are saying. HR, I have no issue with, they already knew, they were already involved, she is liasing with people who need to know this info. She is now deciding, without any discussion, and just telling me, that she is taking this to yet another person, without any need.

I agree she needs to seek advice, but that does not mean discussing personal and confidential information with everyone she thinks might need to know, and without my knowledge (much of the conversations which have taken place with those I beleive did not need to know, occured in private and without my knowledge until much after the event, and only by chance, not formally.

And PAs. her PA, yes, I agree, but there is a pool of 4-6 PAs which is new, some are temps, some do other jobs too, and they are now shared, and sometimes they cover. Some of the staff who have access to the email account of my line manager are old PAs who still work there and have moved on but not been removed from having access. It was one of these who told me she knew about my being pg and to be careful with emails.

My personal letters to my line manager, I had marked 'private and confidential - addressee only' it was my understanding that no-one other than recipient would open this?

The union stance was, last time, that she has breached my trust by discussing things she had no right to talk about with people who did not need to know, and that she did this after being asked not to. She was written to by my union rep and advised I had raised concerns. It was taken no further at that stage, after it was agreed any contact should be via my union rep.

She now ignores that and talks to me 1:1 about it, puts me on the spot without representation and I have to ask her to speak to my union rep as I don' trust her accuracy with information recording.

PavlovtheForgetfulCat Mon 20-Jul-09 22:51:06

The problem is, I have had issues with this line manager in the past, wrapped up in a major major issue with a different line manager. I assure you its not me! Its a culture of bad management that a few years ago was brought to a head with a few grievances being brought against several managers, including this one. She was not the main issue in my grievance, she was a 'sub-issue' for want of a better word.

I had my line manager changed to a lovely lovely woman who was surprisingly good as both an operational and line manager. Due to staff restructure, this new line manager of mine, she asked me if we had any unresolved issues before she became my line manager (it was a decision to be made about whether to move me to another team due to my previous greivance and I did not want to move) and I said that as long as she did things by the book we should have no problems (the other manager, I have on my HR file I cannot/will not work with her, acknowledged and upheld so far) But she just does not do things by the book.

I just do not get why it takes 8 people (not including the PAs) to resolve one issue, that is clear to resolve, and could have just been resolved by one person in HR. I do not know why more people knowing personal info about my private life, in a situation brought about by there mess up in the first place will resolve the problem.

(sounds cryptic, its not honestly and is entirely their fault which they refuse to admit)

PavlovtheForgetfulCat Mon 20-Jul-09 22:58:16

Sorry. I ranted. <calms down> grin

I just want to go to work, do my job as well as I can and just deal with the normal stresses involved in my job, the normal kind you get in an office, that I can cope with. I have so many issues with this manager, on so many levels, that I am really really struggling to work with her.

And she bloody well phones me when I am off sick, twice last week, and she knows she is meant to leave me alone but she just can't do it. And I just get fed up with complaining about her.

MadBadandDangerousToKnow Mon 20-Jul-09 23:07:25

Yes, this all sounds very upsetting and unsettling for you. I hope your union rep can help bring things to a sensible conclusion that you are comfortable with.

PavlovtheForgetfulCat Mon 20-Jul-09 23:10:21

i feel, more than upset, i feel really frustrated, quite stressed and keep trying to put this into some kind of perspective as i know my hormones are whizzing around.

TigerDrivesAgain Mon 20-Jul-09 23:18:05


I think the only thing you can do in a formal sense is raise a grievance but if you do so it must be very unranty, very clinical etc. HR do need to be able to talk to managers, but I agree, if you have been very clear about confidentiality and there is good reason for this, then you should press them on this.

also if you do so, you need to work out what resolution you want.

Thinking other than formal: is your union rep able to achieve some sort of agreement. If not, ask them about workplace mediation - designed to get work relations working, not sort out unresolvable problem.

Hope this helps.

PavlovtheForgetfulCat Tue 21-Jul-09 18:56:15

Thanks Tiger, appreciate your response! Line manager was not in today, been back 2 days after 2 weeks sickness absence, no back to work interview! I emailed all the managers and asked who would be doing my back to work interview in line manager's absence (according to sickness absence policy it must be completed within 2 days, if not by line manager, by another appropriate manager). No response yet by any of them (6 of them!).

I have arranged to have a coffee tomorrow with my union rep, and air all my grievances with him. I think, given my current frustrations and angst about it all, and given the last formal expression of concern about confidentiality being broken was done via him, it would be better if it is done via him again. His opinion, as rep, is that she is overstepping the mark and that is why he asked her to back off with the unneccesary discussions.

I think, if this was one thing, I would be less bothered, but I have had nothing but continuous trouble with my employers since before I went on maternity leave last time. They lose all the tribunals that are taken against them. They just do not ever seem to follow policy and it really gets to me!

flowerybeanbag Tue 21-Jul-09 19:51:56

You can consider a formal grievance, but I would also suggest you consider asking for a meeting with an appropriate (and appropriately senior) person in HR to discuss all of this. Clearly dealing directly with your line manager isn't working so a rap on the knuckles by HR might do the trick if you would rather not raise a formal grievance at this stage.

You mention in your OP the possibility of refusing to work with her. The trouble is, as you've identified yourself, changing line managers will mean more information sharing that you are not comfortable with.

PavlovtheForgetfulCat Tue 21-Jul-09 20:05:33

flowerybeanbag - I guess, its not that I don't want to work with her, I have tried so hard to put aside the issues I have and continue to be professional. She is unfortunately a really bad manager in terms of professionalism and both I and other members of the team have to challenge her on policy points operationally so many times, so with this personal aspect in addition, I am really struggling to work with her and keep my cool.

To be honest, I am not too afraid of going down the grievance route if there is something she is doing wrong, not just annoying. I feel that all too often in my workplace people do what they should not work wise, or let things go behaviour wise as complaining is such a hard thing to do, the repercussions and stress involved is too tiring. Of course I would prefer informal, but I am not entirely sure she is capable of it, as I really don't think she understands that she is doing anything wrong.

flowerybeanbag Tue 21-Jul-09 20:15:52

Well it's definitely wrong, so don't worry about that. Formal grievances are stressful and it can be more difficult to find your way back to a reasonable relationship from one than from other possible solutions, which is why I usually say explore other options first where possible.

But you need to take a view (as only you can) as to whether there is any other option that will realistically work, and also as to what impact raising a grievance will have on you now and on your relationship with your manager going forward.

You could have a firm discussion with someone in HR, saying that you are at the stage where you think the only option is to raise a formal grievance. The HR person may then run to your manager and say 'FFS sort it out otherwise Pavlov will be raising a formal grievance'. The HR person may agree that actually in this case, with this particular individual, a formal grievance is actually the best way to go. Or the HR person may be rubbish and just umm and ahh.

Personally I'd try that first and see what helpful input you might get on the grounds that doing so won't lose you anything.

PavlovtheForgetfulCat Tue 21-Jul-09 20:59:30

Thanks all.

I think, I will chat with union rep, and then make a decision. Hopefully he will have something proactive to suggest too, he currently likes to avoid trouble! He is quite new to the union rep stuff so needs a kick up the ass sometimes!

In terms of our relationship, mine and my line manager's. I doubt that there is much to save, as I do not trust her, either in a professional or employee care capacity. I feel I am always waiting for something to mess up. It could be me, or it could be work related and someone could die. So, if a grievance will get her to re-assess the way she works with people, maybe its not a bad thing.

And, I have maternity to leave to go on yet, so the fallout might calm down before I return grin

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