October 13, 2008

Is confidentiality negotiable?

A previous blog entry about when I started in the workforce reminded me of something I would rather have forgotten. But since it is not forgotten, I may as well share it! I was sixteen years old and working as a teller in a bank. I had been in the role only a few months but knew already it wasn’t what I was put on earth for. I liked the bank though. I wanted to know what else was available within it. I knew there had to be some cool department I had not heard of before in the big building in town. If not, perhaps I’d find my bliss amongst the even bigger offices in Auckland and Wellington. Unfortunately for me the only career advancement I was welcome to was the ‘normal’ progression from teller, to insurance/accounts/automatic payments to lending consultants. You had to follow the branch ‘steps’. I decided that if head office knew of my drive and passion they would surely want to utilise it. So I did what any sixteen year old thinking outside the box would do. I did a ‘project’. I call it that because that is how I embarrassingly remember it. I spent many a night at the family computer nutting up what was about a six page document. In it I introduced myself to the recruitment manager. I explained my ‘skills’, goals, ideas, and excitement about finding the right place for me within the bank. I explained that the branch network wasn’t for me and that I really wanted to know WHAT was out there, WHAT positions were available within this huge brand. Working in my own wee corner of the bank I had no knowledge of departments such as marketing, PR, credit control, sponsorship, learning and development etc. All I wanted was to be told what was out there – so I could ponder, see and dream about where I could head. I thought my special ‘project’ would knock their socks off. Especially the page that had “What I have to offer” written in a bubble in the middle and my personal qualities scattered around it looking all flash. I thought this was hugely innovative at the time…..give me a moment - I need to cringe in embarrassment! My cover letter to this had one clear request. Please don’t tell my manager I approached you. I was newish and I didn’t want them to know I was already looking for my out. Simple enough request I thought. People do it all the time when job seeking – confidentiality until the right moment. Anyway a week or so past and I was called to my supervisors office. In her hand she clutched at my special project. I was so embarrassed. I got the ‘career progression’ talk – load AP’s, sell insurance and then you lend. I felt a lot like a naughty school girl who had been told off by the principal. She wasn’t impressed with my project! She didn’t like that I’d approached recruitment instead of following the only, stiff, unappealing progression plan available to branch staff.

Needless to say the recruitment manager who I sent the project to didn’t adhere to my simple request of speaking to me only! She didn’t call, she didn’t email, she didn’t write. She just sent the whole thing to my boss and said ‘sort this out’. I was guttered. I was just as clueless as before the launch of my ‘innovative’ reaching out. No “well we have marketing, PR, IT….”. Not even a call to say “speak to your supervisor”. Just a readdressing of the project, which from that day on was kept in my HR file.

Anyway, my point and I do have one is this: how much weight do workers words have with you? If someone asks you to keep something quiet do you do it? Or do you (with complete disregard of their feelings and trust) do whatever you want? I didn’t know why she couldn’t have simply called to talk about it. I had clearly requested to keep my supervisor out of it. To this day it baffles me why she would SEND THE WHOLE DARN THING onto her. I felt so unimportant. Why was I so valueless that my simple (and common) request was ignored so blatantly? Can you identify with any of this waffle? Does it remind you of anything your staff want or need from you that you arent giving?

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