It’s crucial for businesses to get their data security right, but this isn’t just about vetting your third-party suppliers, securing your IT network and educating employees about the latest threats.
It’s about who you trust with your information.
What’s their character? Do they agree with what you’re doing, or do they have any moral or political objections to your decisions?
You might think that if someone found your work objectionable, they wouldn’t associate with your business at all – but it’s realistic to imagine someone having a moral crisis while working for a company and deciding that it’s “the right thing to do” to do something with the information they have.
We’re all the heroes of our own stories.
Frenemies in high places
We’re seeing the consequences of trusting the wrong person play out right now.
Former Health Secretary, Matt Hancock, passed 100,000 of his WhatsApp messages to journalist Isabel Oakeshott to use as background material so that she could ghost-write his pandemic memoir. The thing is, despite Oakeshott having a similar political leaning to him, she is still passionately anti-lockdown, while he was all for them.
Oakeshott wrote the book for him… and then passed the WhatsApp messages on to The Telegraph, which is now drip-feeding choice morsels that are being scavenged by other papers and are currently flying around social media.
We’re getting unprecedented insight into how the government manages crisis situations. We’re seeing unguarded conversations between the Prime Minister and his cabinet colleagues.
We’re also seeing unfiltered comments they made about teachers and their unions – at a time when relations between the government and teachers are still fraught.
The revelations are likely to continue for a while. The pandemic inquiry isn’t moving as quickly as some people would like, and it’s nowhere near as salacious as being able to read messages we were never supposed to see.
What can organisations learn from this?
Ego doesn’t belong in communication.
When we work from ego, it’s easy to be so focused on our public image that we make inadvisable decisions.
We’re less likely to really listen to people and understand their perspectives and objections (note: understanding is not the same as changing your stance to match theirs – it’s about knowing who you’re talking to, where their mind is and how they’re likely to react to your words and actions).
The easiest way for organisations to avoid this sort of thing isn’t to vet everyone intensely or design iron-clad “give me your first-born” NDAs, but to commit to doing the right thing and communicating (even internally) in a responsible, ethical and empathetic way.