Archive for the ‘Secrets’ Category

Service of Conflicting Loyalties

Monday, April 22nd, 2024

We’re often confronted with allegiances that bump up against one another. I’m rewatching a series on Netflix, “Virgin River.” In it, a person with terminal cancer has asked her best friend’s husband [a doctor], and other close friends to let her tell her best friend about her diagnosis. Trouble is that this woman is on a trip, and she is devastated when her friend dies while she’s still away and nobody has told her of the serious illness out of loyalty to the wishes of the sick person.

At least three times officemates who were crucial to the running of a magazine or PR agency at which we were both employed, told me that they would soon be giving notice and to please keep it quiet. I always did.

A friend was annoyed when her husband wouldn’t tell her anything about a case the jury he was on was determining a verdict because he’d been told not to discuss the case with anyone.

It’s important to be clear when your news is not to be shared. If the person is married, I think that it should be OK, if the spouse is trustworthy, to give that partner a pass on the embargo. It’s ideal not to create potential friction as a result of your request for secrecy.

Have you been put in an uncomfortable position when asked not to discuss a situation with anyone? Have you asked not to hear the confidence? Have you asked others to honor your secret?

Service of Salary Secrecy

Monday, May 17th, 2021

Image by Ryan McGuire from Pixabay

Job seekers have shared their opinions with me about whether to insist on knowing the salary range before pursuing a position and in the first conversation revealing, to the prospective employer, the remuneration they expect. They fall into two schools of thought: Do and Don’t. The same thing applies to a PR agency before staff takes time to write a proposal. The risk of failure increases when the client doesn’t share how much the company is budgeted to spend.

One friend at the top of her game won’t work for less than $X and doesn’t want to waste her time on countless interviews for nothing so she says she won’t move forward on a job lead without salary information. She’s also fine with sharing her salary expectations with headhunters and hiring managers.

Alison Green wrote “When Employers Demand a Salary Range From Applicants but Refuse to Suggest One,” asking why “hiring managers play such coy games around salary.” In her article in she reported that employers sometimes wait until they make a formal offer or late in the process yet they require that candidates spill their figure right away. She commented, after being contacted by a close-lipped headhunter: “Why not just tell me what [the salary] is so we each know if we’d be wasting our time or not?”

In one example, she was told the interview process entailed, after HR screening, a call with the hiring manager, a full day of interviews in the office, potentially a second day, and maybe having to complete a project or test.

There’s no surprise why employers opt for secrecy–they want to pay as little as possible. Candidates fear if they mention an amount they won’t be paid what the employer is willing to pay. If the job is appealing enough an applicant might be willing to accept a lower salary but fears, by mentioning a higher one, they will knock themselves out of the running.

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Green wrote: “Job seekers who just ask directly what range the position will pay risk running into interviewers who bristle at the idea that money might be a key factor in someone’s interest level.” That happened to her in the example above that potentially entailed two days of interviews. “The HR person got really cold and awkward and said she couldn’t tell me that information. … I received an email later that afternoon that said because I was so interested in salary and not the company or the job, they weren’t continuing with my candidacy.”

She found that some employers say they duck offering a compensation range because candidates will be disappointed if not offered the top salary.

She advises job seekers to do research about jobs in the targeted industry by speaking with recruiters, directors of professional organizations and colleagues. “Ultimately, as long as employers treat salary info like a closely guarded trade secret, candidates will be at a disadvantage.”

Have you been caught up by the salary question? Should employers be open about their salary range and prospective employees be relaxed about sharing their expectations? Aren’t employers who object to candidates asking what the pay will be naive to think that people work for fun, with no concern about covering expenses or what others in the industry pay? What about prospective clients who won’t tell an agency what their budget is–do you write a proposal anyway?

Image by Nattanan Kanchanaprat from Pixabay

Service of Boundaries—Walls if you Wish

Monday, March 4th, 2019

I thought of several other headlines for this post–Service of: “Too Much Information;” “I Don’t Want to Know,” or “Too Much to Ask.”

There are many things I don’t want to know and whether my parents had affairs and/or with whom, is one of them. I also would not want to be in any way involved.

How did this come up?

My husband asked me last week, after Michael Cohen testified at the congressional hearing: “What would you think if my father had me pay for illicit affairs or for the cover-ups?” I said, “WHAT?” He continued, “He didn’t, but I was shocked that Donald Trump, Jr. signed one of the checks Cohen presented in evidence about the Stormy Daniels cover-up.”

Authors—Susan Cheever for one—write about their parents’ sexual lives, which I think is not their story to tell. Some children resent that they were kept in the dark if they learn of a parent’s affairs after the death of the father or mother in question.

Should there be no secrets between parents and their children? Am I old fashioned because I welcome them? Do you draw the line as to what you’d ask your child to do for you or what you’d do for a parent?

Service of Secrets That Burden

Thursday, June 14th, 2018

I’ve covered this topic before. I defended Nora Ephron in one post. Many of her friends had complained when she died “suddenly.” She’d kept her Leukemia diagnosis a secret. I wrote about General David Petraeus’ pillow talk where he was accused of sharing state secrets with his lover and about leakers in business and government.

Elizabeth Bernstein brought up a different perspective when she wrote “Should You Keep a Secret?” in The Wall Street Journal. One of her sisters, Rebecca, asked her to travel to be with her when she had a breast biopsy. She asked her to tell nobody else in the family, one that is chock full of doctors from surgeons to gynecologists. Her sister, an internist who trusted her surgeon, didn’t want the pressure of unsolicited advice.

Bernstein asked: “How do you decide whether to keep someone’s secret when there are good reasons to tell?” More later about the repercussions of her decision to stay mum.

She offered other examples: You know the spouse of a person having an affair–do you snitch? What about a secret drinker in the family who needs help? Say you learn that a close friend, who died, had led a double life? “You might want to disclose someone’s secret if it will help him or her in the long run. Or if someone else is being hurt or has a right to know the information.”

According to studies to be published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology “we often feel closer to a loved one when we know a secret of theirs, but this information can also be a burden. The studies show that the closer a person is to a friend or loved one whose secret they know, the more he or she is likely to think about the secret. And the more friends the two people have in common, the more likely one person is to keep another’s secret.”

Bernstein quoted the lead researcher, Michael Slepian, PhD, Columbia Business School: “Just having to think about someone else’s secret makes it harmful to our wellbeing.” In an earlier study Dr. Slepian reported that when people think about a secret, everything seems to be more difficult: “They estimate hills to be steeper and distances to be farther” than people not so burdened.

So what happened to Bernstein? She was still at her sister’s house when her mother called. Mom knew—her sister had told her—and “was angry with me for preventing the rest of the family from supporting Rebecca.” The gynecologist was “hurt that I didn’t seem to value her expertise. Too late, I realized that in keeping Rebecca’s secret, I might have betrayed others. It took me almost a week to get back into everyone’s good graces. By then, we’d learned that the biopsy, thankfully, was negative.”

Had you been Bernstein, would you have told the rest of the family? Do you think anyone has “the right” to personal information and someone’s secret and that you should be the person to share it? Have you felt burdened and sluggish when harboring a dear one’s secret? Have you been in the “no good deed goes unpunished” position, like Bernstein, on the bad end of the stick when others learn you knew but didn’t share? Are there some personal secrets you should never share under any circumstance?

Service of Leaks

Thursday, May 24th, 2018

The idea for this post came to me the day after the Meghan/Prince Harry wedding. I love seeing the fashions worn at high profile events and was looking for photos of the evening party that Prince Charles threw for 250 of the bride and groom’s nearest and dearest. Guess what? Not one photo had leaked. That’s how the couple wanted it.

Granted a party doesn’t have the gravitas of Robert Mueller’s special counsel investigation yet they share being information airtight: There’s not been the tiniest drop of disclosure from Mueller’s team. I eventually read online about the festivities at Prince Charles’ party for his son and daughter-in-law, but saw no photos.

So what’s with the White House and current administration? Some leaks are deliberate, I’ve heard, and rumors have it that others even come from the top, based on a history of such behavior when DT was a citizen. The queasier kind of information that nobody would want outsiders to hear is blabbed by someone–even more than one person perhaps.

In addition to being a passport to a hasty firing if caught, I don’t get why someone so irritated that they are willing to spill the beans sticks around any organization. Pundits have conjectured that this is the only way to get the attention of the president. I hope that’s not true.

There’s a difference between a leaker and whistleblower, the latter being extraordinarily brave, willing to jeopardize a career to save others. If you so dislike where you work, and you agree that whistle blowing is instant career suicide, then get out, and keep quiet at least until you do.

Have you had to stop leakers in an organization? How is it done? Are leakers held in high regard or does the press that takes advantage of the juicy information consider them to be rats? Regarding the White House soggy with leaks, why add to and be part of the rapid deterioration of the decorum of a once venerable office and symbol?

Service of Hidden Stories: What Do You Know About Support Workers Where You Work and Live? What Do They Know About You?

Monday, June 20th, 2016

I hadn’t seen the young woman who cleans the ladies’ room at the office for so long I didn’t think she worked here anymore. But I saw her last week and asked how her classes were coming along. She told me that she got all A’s this semester in such college courses as biology and chemistry. English is not her native tongue. I’m in awe.

Some office building front desk staffers can hardly grunt a good evening in return or look up from their newspapers as late-leaving tenants pass them. Others are more like one night guard who has much to discuss if you give him a chance. Recently he was weighing options his kids had suggested for his father’s day gift. A former night doorman now porter told me how much he loved his cats—more than any girlfriend past or present—describing his menagerie with love and in great detail. His pals call him “the cat man.” This morning he worried about his youngest who, he hopes, suffers only from a hairball.

Those we don’t think are listening or observing know plenty about us. The morning doorman at our apartment has worked there for 30+ years. He told me that he remembers the birthdates of some of the tenants—there are hundreds–and that he also knows which ones don’t want to be reminded.

The elderly fellow on our floor whose door is almost directly opposite ours isn’t friendly so I didn’t knock one noon when I dashed home for something and his morning newspaper was still on the carpet outside. I mentioned the unusual behavior to the door person on my way out—a porter subbing for the doorman on his break. The next morning the doorman volunteered that the neighbor was fine, that he checked on him before resuming his door duties and that this neighbor had simply forgotten to get the paper. He thanked me for speaking up and said that over the years he’d rescued a few tenants who had fallen over a weekend and had spent many hours on the floor.

In the day there were articles about how to become successful that warned readers not to bother with “the little people,” a Leona Helmsley reference. They weren’t worded this way—you were advised only to deal with people who could enhance your career. Has this changed?

Do you chat with the people who work around you or do you ignore them? Have any of them surprised you with their hobbies, accomplishments and lives beyond their day jobs? Do you think they know anything about you?

Service of Keeping Secrets

Sunday, January 25th, 2015

“Three may keep a secret if two of them are dead,” –Benjamin Franklin

“To keep your secret is wisdom; but to expect others to keep it is folly,”—Samuel Johnson—both on

Clearly General David Petraeus wasn’t speaking to a dead person if he, in fact, whispered classified information along with sweet nothings to his then paramour and biographer Paula Broadwell. As a high-profile person it surely was folly if he did do it.

Jack Shafer took a balanced view of the matter in “In Defense of David Petraeus,” in He posited whether “the case should have been brought in the first place,” observing that government officials deliberately leak information “sometimes to float a policy balloon, sometimes to undermine their bureaucratic opponents, sometimes by mistake, and sometimes (I’m only guessing here) to placate the mistress who is writing an adulatory biography.”

Shafer reports that 1.4+ million are cleared for top secrets and that they create “tens of millions of new classified documents each year.” He quoted the late Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan’s observation that with so much at top secret level it slows information between policy makers creating an unsafe, rather than a safe, situation. Shafer wrote: “If neither justice nor national security are being served by pressuring the general, prosecutors should back off.”

The reporter doesn’t suggest that Petraeus should go Scott free if he did this as it sets a bad example for lower level people who handle security matters. Shafer asks: “Did we experience a genuine security lapse in the Petraeus case, or are we merely relearning the lesson that Moynihan taught, that the bureaucracy, determined to cover its ass in advance, classifies way too much material?”

We don’t yet know, and Shafer points to two hints that reflect the benign nature of the info Broadwell received. According to the Washington Post, “aides and military officials” passed along the schedules and PowerPoint presentations in question to Broadwell. Quoting Bloomberg View, Patraeus has been “casually advising the White House on Iraq” and his security clearance still holds. Shafer concludes: “Does the right hand of the government know what the left is doing?”

Until the top security definitions are redefined, is it up to anyone to determine that one bit of information is more or less secret after the fact or are rules rules? Is this accusation a tempest in a teapot fueled by a political enemy of Patraeus or the administration? Do you keep it simple and never share sensitive work information with a soul or do you make exceptions under certain circumstances?

Service of Secrets

Thursday, September 20th, 2012

I can’t get out of my mind Frank Rich’s New York Magazine article, “Nora’s Secret,” about Nora Ephron, who died of Leukemia, but told almost nobody that she had it.

According to Rich her friends-he considered himself top of the list–couldn’t understand how an open book such as Ephron, who so freely wrote about her experiences and feelings in her manuscripts and movies, would keep this information to herself. They were shocked when she died both because she seemed so well and they didn’t realize that she was so sick.

I know people who seem to reveal everything under the sun but keep really important information to themselves and I fully understand and empathize with Ephron. Sometimes you need all your strength to put one foot in front of the other and you must harvest your energy. You can spread yourself too thin by having to respond to countless queries which, in Ephron’s case would have been about her health. Other topics people care to keep close could be about divorce, bankruptcy, job loss of a spouse, other disaster or maybe something positive such as a fragile, fledgling love relationship.

As a famous person, there would have been countless articles about Ephron’s illness, distracting her from what she wanted to do which was continue to live and work as she always had.

Being private doesn’t mean being secretive and it also doesn’t indicate a person thinks less of another as a friend. Is all a person’s business everyone else’s? If you don’t share, are you less of a friend? I don’t even see what Ephron did as keeping a secret, do you?

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