The treatment of confidential information is one of the most important ethical issue for staffing specialists, and specifically for human resources employees. When an employer promises employees that information will be remain confidential, they are obligated to keep this promise. On the one hand, it could be argued that it is obvious that the results of exit interviews will be shared with supervisors and higher ups in the organization as this is the only way such information will have a positive impact in terms of organizational change. It could also be argued that since HR works for the organization and not the employee, they have a duty to disclose any information that could impact the business.
However, given the negative repercussions in which negative feedback provided by the employee during an exit interview could result, it is imperative that this information be disclosed in an anonymous manner. If Supervisors are aware that certain former employees were critical of them, the supervisor may give negative references. There may also be negative repercussions for the employee’s former co-workers if certain information involves others. Failure to adhere to confidentiality related to exit interviews is also likely to become common knowledge at the organization. When this occurs, other employees who leave in the future will likely fail to provide accurate feedback if the information is negative to avoid potential consequences. Thus, an important source of information that provides the organization with the capacity for quality improvement will be lost. In such a scenario only positive feedback which may or may not be accurate, is likely to be shared which does not help an organization learn about weaknesses or problems that need correcting.
It is also possible that when employees learn that exit interview responses are not kept confidential they will become generally distrustful of the organization. This could result in their failure to provide useful feedback to address problem situations while they are still employed with the company. In the situation presented the best option is for HR find a way to aggregate the information from all the interviews conducted. his would allow a single report to be created summarizing the feedback of all interviews together without identifying any individual employee.