A Compliance Case Study

The People: 

Michael, just promoted to manager at the university

Dr. Greene, Michael’s supervisor

The Setting:

Michael and Dr. Greene are about to begin their first 1- on-1 meeting via Zoom.  

The Event:

A few minutes before the meeting, Michael logged into Zoom. Dr. Greene soon joined him. “Good morning! Congratulations on your first day in the new position. I’ll be ready in just a minute; I need to locate my notes….”

Michael noticed a Google Chat message on his screen. It was from a friend who used to work with him at the university. He decided to respond.

Good to hear from you, man! It’s been a while! 

And then it happened. Michael shared some sensitive information about employees with his friend.

Dude! You won’t believe how much has changed since you left. We’ve had to switch some people around to fix some issues. Remember Patrick???

And then it got worse. Suddenly, he heard Dr. Greene’s voice through the speaker on the laptop. “Michael! You can’t share information about employees like that! It’s confidential! Please end that chat, now!”

Shocked – and embarrassed – Michael, at first, tried to deny that he had shared confidential information about employees. But then he apologized.

Michael ended the chat with his friend and instead of the meeting he was supposed to have with Dr. Greene, they began a very different kind of meeting. She counseled him about the importance of protecting confidential information. Then, before they moved on to their original agenda, Dr. Greene promised to register Michael for a training class that focused on his obligations as a manager.

The Takeaway:

Have you ever shared something that you shouldn’t have? It’s happened to a lot of us. We may have been in the middle of a casual conversation when suddenly we started talking about something that was supposed to remain confidential. Many of us are entrusted with important, and sometimes sensitive, information in our roles at VCU. But whatever our role, we have an obligation to protect that information. Whether in a chat, an email or a virtual or face-to-face meeting, we should all strive to use good judgment when speaking with others about university employees or business matters. 

Don’t be like Michael; think before you write or speak. When in doubt, keep it confidential.

Please note: The names and details in the case study have been changed to protect the identity of the people involved in the actual case.

Don’t be like Michael; think before you write or speak. When in doubt, keep it confidential.

(Thank you for reading the first case study of the series! Please email mcquillenka@vcu.edu to provide us with feedback.)

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