What do you say when one of your team members asks you to keep something confidential? There’s a dangerous workplace situation that all leaders and managers find themselves drawn into from time to time. I call it the “confidential complaint” trap.
This happens to me when I’m working with leadership teams. Someone will stop me in the hall during a break and say, “May I talk to you for a minute, NOT in the room with the group?”
There’s a natural inclination to say yes to this kind of request. As leaders, we all want to be approachable. We may also want to find out what’s going on inside our organization. But promising blanket confidentiality for run-of-the-mill complaints can be a dangerous slope because it is diametrically opposed to creating a healthy workplace culture.