What is a confidentiality agreement? A confidentiality agreement is an official written documentation by two parties agreeing not to disclose specific information to anyone.
Origin of Confidentiality
Confidentiality in the Bible setting
There really is no exact history as to how the idea of confidentiality started. But in the Bible, we are told how people confide with each other. The Bible is rich with the subject, starting from Adam, Eve and the snake in the Old Testament up to Judas in the New Testament. But when people confide, they do it for malicious intention. In the old days, there was no paper signing, yet. But the idea is there, and almost the same. It is the thought of being exclusive, of not letting others be involve in the plans, it is about not sharing an idea with someone, with others. In the case of Eve and the snake, the connivance was against God. In the New Testament, Judas confided against his co-disciples and with Jesus.
Purpose of confidentiality
The purpose of confidentiality agreement, in general, whether in the office, or in a store, or in a school, is to protect the information of the institution. If left unprotected, the business institution will lose its essential core ideas, its uniqueness. And why is that so? Because other institutions might do the same thing that the original institution has been doing. Well, that may not be a big deal considering that most companies these days just behave almost in the same manner. If you look at companies operating as BPOs, they almost have the same approach in dealing with their own business. There may be some variances such as salaries, shifting schedules, and others; but, nevertheless, you can tell they are just the same BPOs. We are talking of operating procedures here. The biggest deal is the insider information, such as financial data. This is the kind of information that we all should be wary about.
Also, there is this concern on protecting idea. And for some, it is more important that financial or bank information. Ideas, especially in business, are the hearts of any business. Every business begins with ideas: What is the business all about? How to run the business? What is the target audience of the business. Where to operate the business, so as to get a strategic location. Is it in India or China. Why not in the USA. Who should man the business. What makes the business different from others. How does the business generate some profit. In other words, will your business make a hit? How do you do the planning, the execution of these ideas. Things like these, or questions like these, need to be protected. And by protection, it means protected from being executed by other people in the same competition.
How is NDA Processed
An NDA, or confidentiality is just a document signed by both parties. So what is inside in the document. In a confidentiality document, both parties, or at least, one party must agree, if not swear, to the written statement not to disclose sensitive materials of the company. Along the way, the bookkeeper, after being hired, gets to know information that are too sensitive for others, for the public, to know. And it is these information that the bookkeeper must be aware of. All he needs to do in the document is read through the papers, and sign them page by page.
What is a Bookkeeper
Having said all that, all about confidentiality, how then can a bookkeeper be related to confidentiality. Anyone second party, or employee can commit a breach to confidentiality. But the bookkeeper can be very critical. We ask, what then is the job of the bookkeeper?The bookkeeper is responsible for all the financial recording, accounting in a company. That means, he or she knows the currents of the financial accounts, from the salary of the employees, and even up to the savings of the company. He or she is also responsible for the making the rules, policies, operations for bookkeeping. In other words, a bookkeeper is very essential in the balancing of financial data. The spreadsheet is the bookkeeper’s world. Entry here, entry there. Everything about numbers. Everything about money. Imagine if he discloses information such as the one mentioned above?
What should be done, as manager or company operator?
If you happened to be the manager of the company, or the HR head, it is important that you should hire the perfect bookkeeper carefully. And upon hiring, it should be clear to the applicant the terms for being a bookkeeper. And that is when an NDA or confidentiality agreement comes.
Bookkeeper as the forefront and the last stand in confidentiality
Any employee can breach the NDA or confidentiality agreement. But there is none like a breach committed when done by a bookkeeper. So it is important that the person you place as a bookkeeper is a trustworthy one. There can be many traits that you would look for when hiring a bookkeeper, but the one that should be on top is that he is trustworthy.
Bookkeeper vs Accountant
Many do not know the difference between the two: bookkeeper and accountant, and sometimes they mistake one over the other. Understandably so, because the work of the two can overlap. Fundamentally speaking, they make and execute the system of any financial matters. In layman’s term, the accountant looks the overall financial records of a company, whereas the bookkeeper, as the word suggest, looks on the recording in particular details. But whereas the bookkeeper looks in details, it is the accountant that makes the analysis. The bookkeeper is more on the recording, without going into analysis. For the sake of this article, let us just treat the position of accountant as we treat the same that of a bookkeeper. In other words, this extends to the position of the accountant.
Always put in mind that confidentiality issues is not just the domain of the bookkeeper or the accountant. It goes to all other position as well. If you happen to be the security guard, and you know the blueprint of the house or office you are working, you are not supposed to tell anyone about the house plan. You can not disclose anyone that the fire extinguisher in that building is there, the computers are there, the main power switch is there, and there, etc. For random reasons, you simply do not to that. And as to how necessary that you need not to disclose, that can be a good question. That is a simple case for a security guard.
Or let us say you are a secretary, and along the way, you learn some information about the company because probably you are responsible for receiving items from the outside. And knowing who are the clients of your company can be a bit sensitive. But would you have to tell your friends that such and such is a client, and another client, and another. How do you think would that affect your company? If the client is a criminal. If the client is a gang leader. And is it that necessary that you should have to talk about it to other parties as well.
And even if you are on the top of your position in the office, say you are the manager, or the supervisor, you are still bound to the general terms of the confidentiality agreement. Such as how you hire your employees. Do you give clues to the applicants because probably they are your friends or relatives? Do you give away the test sheets to them?
To sum it up, confidentiality agreement is a means of protecting sensitive matters. Depending on every company, the content of the confidentiality agreement may vary form one or the other, but the basic tenet is there.
If you are a manager, or the operator of a company, you can write your own terms of agreement. But there are many others that can be downloaded in the internet. The advantages, is you can save your time thinking about how to write it, the format will be standard. However, since these templates online are intended for general purposes, they may need some editing. It needs changes because your company may have something more than just what can be read in the general confidentiality agreement. For example, a salary may be a sensitive information for one company, but it mat not be that sensitive in your company.
Bookkeeping job is a sensitive job. It sometimes can be involved in financial records, and not just sometimes, sometimes it is always involved in money transaction. It is just perfect that a job such as this really requires confidentiality agreement. This unlike a job like a company gardener. A gardener knowing the kind of soil your company has been using for the plants to grow may not that be a big deal. But not for jobs that involves money.
But as mentioned earlier, it boils down to the kind of person that you hire. It sometimes depends on the kind of person you are hiring for the job. Hiring for a bookkeeping job should be an investment. The opposite of it is to be stingy in scouting for a bookkeeper, but in the long run, you will just suffer for it because you might have hired a incompetent employee, and worse, one that can not be trusted.
Confidentiality on General Information
There are things or information that are commonly included in any confidentiality agreement, whether in legal cases, business, schools, in whatever company. The following items are as follows:
Personal Files. There are not only locked things in your office, such as the Christmas decorations you kept after last Christmas, or the old dilapidated chairs, the seasonal party costumes in the closet, but also the locked files about personal information. By personal information, we mean both sensitive and trivial personal information. The folder in the file may be accessible to you (perhaps because you are a bookkeeper), but that does not mean you are free to share its contents to the public. Sensitive information would mean and include, but not limited to, health condition of a person, salary, wealth records, affiliations or crime records. Trivial information may include hobbies, basic status such as age, height, relatives. Regardless, if the case is sensitive or not, these personal information, (actually referring to personnel, staff, or employees in general) are not supposed to be divulged in the public, not to any one.
Company Records. Different companies have different records. And that needs to be protected. Now as a bookkeeper, you have the authority to access these records. But again, that does not mean you are free to share these records to anyone. These are exclusive for the members of the company. For example, the company has a unique culture of eating ice cream every Monday. Well, it may be not that sensitive an example to drive our point, but you get the point anyway, especially when it is documented. There are things that are not supposed to be shared for the public.
Business Strategy. There are cases when the head of a company discloses to the members about a particular strategy, or perhaps a new product that is still in development. Now this is very sensitive. Usually, things like this require a particular agreement in document. For example, a new product has come up, or a new idea has just been generated. Let us say, a new cellphone. This cellphone has features that are not found in any other phones. Name it, 5G, 6G, 7G, 10000 mah battery, 12 – 24 GB ram, 2 TB memory, 120 MP face camera, 200 MP rear camera, Android version 100. Ok, this is an exaggeration, but who knows when this will come out, maybe less than a decade from now. The point is, there are things that a company should protect so that it would not be stolen from a competing company.
Basically, these are the information a company would want to protect. And as a bookkeeper, who may have the power to access any of these information, you are supposed to protect these data, records, information. The technique is to somehow a bit sober in sharing ideas, information, always minding not to divulge when it borders the sensitive topic.