Q. I'm the HR director of a 45-employee company and have one assistant. Due to the firm's growth, I'm considering giving my assistant more responsibility. My concern: The assistant is very friendly with about 10 other employees. Two are her roommates. What's to stop her from divulging information to her friends? I have said nothing to her about my concerns yet. What can I express to her without overstepping her legal rights? —M.I., New York
A. No law would prevent you from sitting down with your assistant and telling her, quite bluntly, that she holds a position of importance and that you require her to maintain all personnel information in strict confidence.
Can you take the next step and tell her whom she should and shouldn't socialize with? Unless there are other facts that you haven't provided (i.e., facts giving rise to discrimination issues), I don't see any reason why the answer wouldn't be "Yes," so long as you have a good business-related reason. That said, if you are truly having serious doubts about your assistant's discretion, perhaps she's not the right fit for your growing HR department.
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