Secrecy Importance in an Organization

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Introduction

Secrecy is a fundamental element in the life of any human being. In life, we trust people on their ability to keep secrets. This is why secrecy becomes a fundamental element in everyone’s life. Individuals, governments and corporate organizations all rely on secrecy to keep moving on. Many organizations have been brought down simply because one person was not keen enough to keep a secret or because the organization did not have well set mechanisms to ensure that secrets were well kept. This essay looks at the importance of secrecy in an organization. It also discusses how secrets are kept in an organization. The paper looks at some specific examples detailing how the lack of secrets can lead to the downfall of an organization. (Simmel, 440)

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Essay Body

In most cases, people hide the position of their dwelling to other people. This is even true for animals that ensure their lairs are well hidden from predators. Human beings will often hide from their friends aspects about themselves that they would not wish anyone to know. This is because such incidences might be a cause of great humiliation in life. Governments on the other hand keep secrets from neighboring countries and the public in general. Such kind of secrets might include the country’s weapon designs, planned military plans among other valuable information. Governments and organizations have gone ahead to form some kind of codes to ensure that important information does not fall on the wrong hands. In many governments, one would be prosecuted for revealing information that is deemed as classified. This is what enables governments to be able to stay ahead of others in terms of development. (Roberts 1, 320)

The other place where secrecy is of importance is in organizations. Organizational secrecy ranks among one of the key requirements in any company that is destined to stay in operation. Upon getting a job in an organization, one is always required to sign a contract. In most cases, this contract will have a clause that states that one will commit themselves to keeping the company’s secrets. In a case where one breaches this agreement, one would be liable to forfeit his employment or be committed to a jail term. Though some people have criticized this trend, it is a good forum since nothing is as damning as the right information in the wrong hands. (Simmel, 442)

Almost all companies pride themselves in the ability to keep secrets. From conglomerates whose first priority is to rake in profits to charity organizations whose priority is to help the society, keeping secrets is mandatory. One of the reasons why these organizations have to keep secrets is to comply with the law or in other cases to hide reprehensible behavior among its staff. An organization would also want to keep secrets in order to stay ahead of its competitors. Lets take for example a case where a company is in the process of coming up with a new line of product. This company would want to ensure that they keep their invention as a secret to ensure that their competitors do not copy their product. In a case where a company has a distinctive manufacturing design, the company will tend to stay ahead of its competitors due to its uniqueness. This particular company therefore has the mandate to ensure that rival companies do not ape their unique designs. (Roberts 2,318)

A company’s future is always in the hands of its clients. If a rival company learns of anothers’ core clients, there is the possibility that their rivals would interfere with that list. In such an event where a particular company snatches the clients of its rivals, the profits that such a client used to bring in to that particular company would consequently be transferred to their rivals. This is why there are trade secret laws to protect such kind of information. On the other hand, inventors have patent laws that cushion them against an event where another person would steal information and pass it as his own. (Bok,299)

The American government realizes that secrecy is a key value in the operation of any organization. This is why the federal government has come up with laws that prohibit organizations from making open some information regarding their employees. Some of this information includes the medical reports of employees in a company among other information. This is meant to ensure that employees do not lose their self-esteem upon learning that their co-workers know of their medical status. This would not only erode respect among employees but would also make the affected employee lose their self-esteem and consequently reduce their overall input in the work place. (Whalen, 138)

A company is gauged by how much profit it is capable of making in any given year. A company’s profits remain a secret to the outside world and even to the employees until the day the financial report is released. This is meant to reduce insider trading before the financial report is released. Insider trading simply put refers to a situation where an outsider trades in a company’s stocks based on information that is not yet in public domain. This is meant to reduce an effect where one gets undue advantage over the rest of the society when it comes to trading. Many countries in the West have staid laws that ensure that information that is not in the public domain is highly guarded. One is usually liable to prosecution if they have an unauthorized assess to such information. This is all done in a bid to protect companies from malpractices that would arise due to such revelations. (Roberts 2, 365)

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As I discussed earlier, employees are required to maintain confidentiality in the work place. All employees are required to ensure that they keep private information that regards their clients and the business as a whole in secret. This act of secrecy does not only involve a particular section of the company. On the contrary, all information in the work place is always termed as classified. This means that whatever information an employee handles in the work place is not supposed to be discussed with the outside world. Many companies do not even allow employees to discuss company business with their spouses let alone their friends. This is true especially in jobs that are volatile like intelligence work. Almost all companies have information that is out of bounds for ordinary employees. Such kind of information requires one to have permission from higher authority to be able to assess it. Companies do all this in a bid to protect important information from falling in the wrong hands something that might end up hurting the company financially. In an event where an employee breaches this clause and reveals information to outside sources, an organization might lose its reputation and consequently suffer losses. In an event where an employee is found to have breached this law and given out information to an unauthorized party, such an employee will often lose their job. In more severe cases, legal action might follow such an action. This is all meant to deter employees from revealing a company secret. (Whalen, 140)

A good example of an organization that is required to keep secrets is the banking industry. In the United States of America, banks are required by law to keep all the information regarding their clients account information as a secret. This information is even supposed to be kept as a secret from the authorities. This is only altered when a complaint is filed on a particular customer. In such an event, the person filing the complaint is required to obtain a court order authorizing the bank to release such kind of information. The Swiss Banking Act established this principle in the early 1930’s. This act has however been accused by many people of being a channel for conducting illegal business. Considered, terrorists have been using this act to commit organized crime. Many corrupt people especially government leaders have been found to stash money looted from their countries in foreign banks thanks to the secrecy act. The secrecy act also harbors some people who might be intent on denying the government its revenue. This is due to a clause in the act that forbids people from declaring their income. This in turn becomes a forum where some people evade paying tax to the government. Although the secrecy act has been used as an avenue of hiding stolen cash, it is good since it protects a person’s personal information. Let us for example take a situation where thieves are able to assess a person’s personal information from a bank. In such a situation, the thieves might use that information to track and hurt that particular person. (Bok, 310)

Although many companies are doing everything within their power to ensure that their trade secrets are safe, this is increasingly becoming difficult with the passage of time. Today, organizational privacy has become like a thorn in the flesh for many organizations. In the past, the only way that rival companies would get information from a particular company was by involving a member of staff from the rival company. However, this has changed with the invention of the computer. Today, it is possible for a company to assess its rival’s information just by the click of a mouse. Many companies are able to monitor their rivals operations by using intelligence systems that are widely gaining popularity. This enables companies to predict the ability and strategies used by other companies. This then calls for organizations to be vigilant and invest more money in ensuring that they get the best security to cushion themselves from such infiltration. (Robbins, 328)

Again, today’s economic environment has changed the way employees operate. Unlike in the past where an employee’s loyalty to the employer was guaranteed, employees today are going to the highest bidder. This means that if a particular company is able to pay an employee from a rival company with a higher salary, then that employee will gladly “sell” the required information to the rivals. In most cases, the employee gets a job from the rivals often with a better salary. This forces many companies to overpay their employees in a bid to ensure that they maintain their loyalty to the company. This just is but a way to show how companies are desperate to maintain their trade secrecy. (Whalen, 141)

Perhaps to understand the subject better, it would be good to look at a classic example of how a leak in secrets can affect an organization. A good example is a case that happened on January 24, 2000 at the National Security Agency. According to reports, the director learned that the whole computer network at the agency had broken down mysteriously. Being the leading intelligence agency in America, any leakage of this report was bound to affect the nation’s security in a big way. The then director Lt. Gen. Michael Hayden called an employees meeting in which he reiterated the importance of secrecy in such a matter. Though the employees kept the matter secret, the Pentagon leaked the information to the press. Though the problem had been rectified by then, one would imagine the repercussions that would follow such a revelation. If criminals had learned about the problem when the system was still broken down, then it is possible that the rate of crime would have gone up hence hurting ordinary American citizens. (Mark, 1)

Although the NSA incidence was not a corporate affair, it brings out some important aspects about corporate secrecy. The most important lesson that we deduce from the NSA incidence is that corporate secrecy not only comes from the organizations vigilance but is also determined by the employee’s loyalty. Although a company might remain vigilant to ensure that secrecy is maintained, it becomes hard to control employees who are bound on letting out the company’s secrets. Since it is not always possible to maintain an employee, it is important that a company look for possible ways to protect important information. (Mark, 2)

One way that a company can protect its crucial information is by ensuring that all computer files and folders containing trade secrets have been marked as confidential. This ensures that every employee assessing the file knows that they are doing something illegal and that they are liable for prosecution. An organization should also ensure that such kind of information is only handled on the need to know basis. This would avert a situation where the classified information goes in to the wrong hands. Alternatively, the people handling this information should be contributing to the advancement of the business by doing so. The people who handle the secret documents should also be made to sign in some documents swearing them to secrecy. This would provide a strong basis for legal action in case a particular party decided to breach the agreement. It is also important to keep such kind of information in a secure place where it is not possible to be tampered with. It is also important for companies to define how they expect people with an assess to the secret information to use the said information. It is also important for an organization to state how long the information remains binding. In this case, it is important for the organization to state in the contract that the agreement is indefinite. This would cushion the organization against former employees who might decide to turn against the company. (Roberts 2, 321)

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It is important to learn that secrecy in an organization is an important component in ensuring that a company makes profits. If such important information is breached, it might not only cause a crisis in an organization but in extreme cases might lead to total collapse of an organization. Recent research shows that the most possible means of classified information coming out from an organization is through current or former employees. It is therefore important for an organization to ensure that it makes it clear for employees on what is required of them as regards to keeping trade secrets. (Robbins, 336)

Conclusion

Secrecy is an important value not only to an organization but to an individual as well. Secrecy ensures that an organization will either stay afloat or go under. In the current economic climate where competition has increased, being unique is a key factor to ensuring survival of any business. In doing this, it is important for companies to keep from their enemies that what makes them unique. There is therefore the need to maintain secrecy among organizations to ensure that such kind of information does not reach their rivals. On their part, companies have realized that their ability to keep secrets is what will determine their survival. These organizations are therefore doing everything possible to ensure that these secrets remain within their domain. The government on its part has come up with legislations to ensure that intellectual property within organizations is protected. Since employees pose many threats on the secrecy of an organization, it is important to make both the current and former employees aware of what is at stake in an event where they do not maintain the company’s secrets. One way of doing this is by making them to sign a form that purports to obligate them in to prison in an event where they commit such a crime. It is also important for companies to remain vigilant on the nature of information that gets in to the outside world.

Works Cited

Bok, Sissela. Secrets: On the Ethics of Concealment and Revelation. New York: Vintage Books, 1989.298-332.print.

Mark, Pruett. “Protecting Trade Secrets During Employee Migration: What You Don’t Know Can Hurt You” Labor Law Journal (2004): 1-11.

Robbins, Alexandra. Pledged: The Secret Life of Sororities. New York: Hyperion, 2004.325-374.Print.

Roberts, Alasdair. Blacked Out: Government Secrecy in the Information Age. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2006. 312-322.Print.

Roberts, John. M. The Mythology of the Secret Societies. New York: Scribner, 1972.315-370.Print.

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Simmel, Georgb. “The Sociology of Secrecy and of the Secret Societies” American Journal of Sociology 11(1906): 441-498.

Whalen, William. J. Handbook of Secret Organizations. Milwaukee: Bruce Pub. Co, 1966.135-169. Print.

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