Let’s rethink NDAs.

Non-Disclosure Agreements (NDAs) have long been utilised as a legal tool to protect sensitive information, trade secrets, and proprietary knowledge. 

However, NDAs are also employed to silence victims and anyone else that has become aware of the incidents, and consequently, cover up the wrongdoing of ‘Bruno’.

‘Bruno’ may have lost his job as a result, but he is free to start elsewhere in the industry without his reputation following him. If he gets away with a warning, then given a few months or years of staff turnover, the only record of the incident will be hidden in the depths of his employee file.

The victims aren’t so lucky. Bruno’s behaviour stays with them, and in many cases has a significant and lasting impact. 

When an organisation says they have zero tolerance for certain behaviours, why then do they choose to maintain a culture of secrecy when such behaviour occurs? 

By not talking about ‘Bruno’ so we inadvertently enable a cycle of misconduct, harassment, discrimination, and other harmful actions to persist unchecked.

We may think it’s about protecting reputations, but we have priorities wrong. Rather than giving Bruno the opportunity to start afresh, we should be more concerned about the victims of Bruno’s behaviour including those who might not have come forward yet.

We should be recognising now, thanks to Grace Tame’s advocacy, that victims should be able to talk about ‘Bruno’ rather than try to repair themselves in silence.

Imagine if organisations took the bold step to say they won’t do NDAs. If findings of misconduct or other inappropriate behaviour are made, there will be an organisational-wide apology. The perpetrator, ‘Bruno’ will be named, additional victims will be encouraged to come forward, and the organisation will reinforce its position that breaches of conduct, and acts of harassment will not be tolerated.

That speaks of true ‘zero tolerance’.

Think of the impact on Bruno and other potential perpetrators. Maybe they would seriously reconsider their actions?

Think of the staff reading that email. All of a sudden, having too many drinks at a work function and then feeling up a colleague doesn’t seem as innocent. They stand to lose a lot if they don’t keep their behaviour in check.

Even if they think it’s consensual, maybe they would think twice if the other person is noticeably intoxicated, or maybe has impaired decision-making. Perhaps we’d be inclined to think let’s not act on this.