How to Tell if There Is a Spy in Your Workplace
2 Minute Read
2 Minute Read

Bet that wasn’t on your reading list when you started working in HR.

Who wants to read blogs about ‘managing sickness absence’ or ‘how to tell if you are emotionally intelligent enough to be a people manager’. (You hopefully, as we have loads of them) but for the sake of the tongue in cheek and a decent HR read for once, capes on, magnifying glass out, we are going all Sherlock Holmes on this one.

Westminster has announced it has rooted out a spy. Specifically, a Chinese Spy, and the Prime Minister has told his Chinese counterpart that he is very disappointed in him. Excellent, job done.

Or is it? How would you ever know if there was a spy in your workplace? If the people that MI5 and MI6 report to managed to let one slip through the net, how on earth do us mere mortals stand a chance?

Firstly, let’s get the elephant in the room out of the way. When we are talking about international espionage, spies may well look, sound and act like everyone you know. Internationally spies are recruited often from foreign countries and embed them as ‘deep’ spies (think ‘The Americans’). So at the slightest hint of espionage, lets not implement a round of dismissals based on nationality. Its going to end badly, and you’ll be sued for discrimination. Rightly so.
Secondly, spies dress the same as everyone else. They have to blend in. So if Martha in accounts has a bit of a penchant for berets and delicate neck scarves, lets not submit her to several hours of questioning about her allegiance to King and Country.

And finally, if Gary in Production has been caught quietly talking on the phone round corners, don’t pounce from the shadows giving the poor bloke heart failure. He’s probably just asking his wife what she fancies for tea.

So how do we really root out a spy in the workplace, either the genuine kind or those passing company data on to competitors?

How to prevent a spy in your workplace

  • Onboarding compliance, be really clear on who you are recruiting, check their references and the veracity of their work history. Contracts of employment should contain confidentiality clauses and you should check these are up to date.
  • Consider your IT policy and attitude to security. Can everyone access everything in your workplace? Or are you operating on a need-to-know basis and ensuring that confidential and sensitive information is restricted to appropriately senior or designated staff members?
  • Ensure you are issuing Company equipment, rather than allowing staff to work on personal devices, meaning if a relationship sours you are able to remove access to Company information and have devices locked and retuned. Staff should be up to date on policies regarding security, document storage and passwords, and should only use secure networks to access company information.
  • When working in public, staff should ensure that screens cannot be overlooked and that conversations that need to be done in private are done away from prying ears.
  • Email forwarding to personal emails should be prohibited, as well as the removal of company documents from premises or company systems were working remotely.

If there is behaviour that you reasonably deem to be suspicious and you have a monitoring policy in place, make sure you have reasonable grounds before diving into emails and monitoring their correspondence, or you risk a potential claim for breach of trust and confidence.

If you have significant concerns, always take advice, and ensure that you do so quickly, as injunctive proceedings often need to be started swiftly if they are going to have the best chance of protecting your business.

These measures may not sound as exciting as leaping from the wing of a plane or swilling down a martini on a poker table, but they are all sensible steps you can take to help prevent damage to your business from those who come with malicious intentions.

Are you ready to become your workplace hero?

We hope this blog provides practical advice for HR professionals on onboarding compliance, emphasising the importance of clear recruitment processes, confidentiality clauses, and updated contracts. Additionally, it delves into the significance of IT policies, secure access, and the issuance of company equipment to safeguard against potential security breaches.

If you need help with any of these processes, contact us today.