A reader writes:
I work at a wealth management firm for very high-profile clients and I’ve found myself in the middle of a ethically tough situation.
One of my co-workers, who has grown to be a relatively good friend, has revealed to me that he’s begun to date a woman who was in our office doing our internal audit. Our firm hires her firm to review our own books. I already thought this was a bad lapse of judgment, but not my place to say something to our office manager.
At lunch on Thursday, he revealed to me that the auditor had shared with him everyone’s salaries as well as how the partners’ profit share was distributed. They have only been out a couple times and I feel that she is a complete idiot, for lack of a better phrase, for sharing this about a client.
I feel like I should report this breach of confidentiality on the auditor’s part, and my friend for asking her for this information and “feeling good” that he now knows this.
I have been at this company nearly a year and feel I’m doing an excellent job, my friend only started 6 months ago and has had a few performance issues.
I’m also afraid to implicate myself and possibly risk my own position because I did not stop him immediately from sharing information with me – I did not know the scope of what he had found out and was interested at first, but once I realized what I was listening to – I told him to stop and I did not want to know anymore. However, I respect the partners of our firm and have a vested interest in its success and feel regardless of my position, I need to report this serious breach.
Do you feel I need to report this to our office manager, and should I let my friend know beforehand that I will be reporting his conduct? We have not spoken much since Thursday, but he does not know that he disturbed me with his and the auditor’s actions.
Wow. The person really in the wrong here is the auditor, much more so than your friend. And I do think that you should let your manager know that the auditor who the firm has hired is disclosing confidential information. It’s appallingly bad judgment, not to mention being against every code of conduct that industry has, etc. It’s also really bad judgment for her to be dating someone at the place she’s auditing; it creates an enormous conflict of interest.
As for your friend, while he’s behaving like a bit of a tool, he hasn’t done anything so egregious that you need to report it. Lots of people wouldn’t refuse to hear this kind of info if it’s being offered up; his biggest error was in repeating it to someone else and thus spreading it further, but once salary info gets out, it tends to get repeated.
If you need to mention that you heard about the auditor’s indiscretion from him, then so be it — but your complaint should be about the auditor, not your friend.