With news of layoffs and companies in the red, isn’t it refreshing to hear news that your company is doing so well that it is considering buying another company or launching a new product? This means greater job security for you and perhaps a big payoff for your family. The first thing you may want to do is rush home and tell your spouse. But wait. First ask yourself whether you legally have the right to share the news.
In the interest of protecting the company and your position within the company, it may be best to keep quiet. The most compelling reason for not divulging company information is you may have a legal obligation not to. Another important reason is it could jeopardize the deal or business opportunity. Of course you trust your family and friends but they may also have people they feel they can ‘trust’ and continue to share the information that was supposed to be ‘just between us.’ If the information is shared, ‘beyond your control’, you could be legally responsible for sharing inside information. Insider trading may be the first thing that comes to mind, but confidentiality agreements are not just meant to protect public companies. If a private company deems information confidential and you don’t know why, there may be a very good reason that you are not privy to. In any case, no matter how good your intentions are, err on the side of caution.
Bottom line: Think before you share company information and make sure you are familiar with the non-disclosure agreement you signed and/or your company’s confidentiality agreement.
As employers and business owners, it is critical to not only draft a confidentiality agreement but to also communicate it to new and existing employees on a regular basis. As you draft or update agreements, these are some of the confidentiality aspects you may want to consider:
- Think through the consequences if information does become public – would it jeopardize the deal or opportunity on the table?
- Can employees share company information with their spouse or other family members? If so, what information is off limits?
- How do you plan to communicate to employees what information is off limits, and why it is a big deal if they share this information?