As a fairly new manager, when I have employees come to me and tell me they would like to talk to me as their manager but in the strictest of confidence, I many times feel uncomfortable. How do I handle these types of employee conversations when it could damage their trust in me as their manager?
When an employee starts out a conversation by telling you that they want to talk in strict confidence, before they go any further remind them that if they tell you something that requires you to take action, then you will do what you must do as a manager and leader. Many times, what an employee tells you will be about themselves or something they may be going through and you don’t have to do anything but listen and understand. Other times, they may divulge something that you are required by law or by ethics to report to your boss or perhaps even the authorities. It could even be something about another employee that you will need to further investigate.
It can sometimes be a challenge when faced with this type of discussion, but be prepared to make it clear up front that you will take the necessary action if your good judgement calls for it. As a leader, it is important to know that you have a greater responsibility to act upon certain situations than you do outside of your leadership role. This is something you should make clear to anyone that begins a discussion requesting confidence.
Once your employees know that you will do what is right, even in the face of challenge and adversity, chances are good that they will trust you completely and not feel that they must precede their statements with a request for confidentiality.