Accountability

I am sometimes asked to sign NDA’s (Non Disclosure Agreements) when working with clients. These are basically written promises on my part not to talk about things I need to know in order to work with the companies I do. Each time I do it, and I occasionally say no, it rankles me a little. It is invariably down to immutable corporate policy but it also feels like a sign of mistrust which is unfortunate happening as it does at the start of a working relationship.

It also occurs to me that as more and more of us live our lives online it should become increasingly unnecessary. Any indiscretions on my part will be much more obvious online and even if not clients would have the ability to do real damage to my online reputation if I ever behaved inappropriately. It feels much more accountable to have an online reputation I am keen to protect than to have a piece of paper filed away somewhere never to be seen again.

6 thoughts on “Accountability

  1. Euan,I'm often subject to the same issues, but take quite a different view I think. NDAs are a necessity in the business world. We may not like them, but I actually think they engender more trust. They allow a client to be more open and honest (and vice versa) and actually, when I'm asked to sign one, I see that as a recognition that a client values my opinion so much that they are willing to share more with me than some other supplier with whom they want a purely transactional relationship.What rankles me is when I'm asked to sign an NDA where there is clearly no need for one. But they certainly have their place in a trusting working relationship.Equally I respectfully disagree that they are less necessary now we live our lives online. In fact, you could agree they are more necessary in on online world in order to stop 'careless talk' – or at least provide legal redress if financial damage were to be incurred.I don't think your (or mine, or anyone else's) online reputation is any kind of reassurance for someone paying for our advice. I've yet to find any company who would say: "Tear up that NDA, Smithers. Just look at Semple's online reputation. He'll never say anything he shouldn't"!

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  2. I am constantly forced to deal with NDAs in order to deal with the myriad of organisations that my company deals with. I sometimes have three levels of NDAs (a standing company NDA, a project NDA and a partnership NDA when dealing with another organisation involved in the project). It gets very boring very quickly.A large American company recently said they couldn't release some information without an additional Highly Confidential NDA which further limited our ability to release information (as if we ever would), but they said because it would take ages for our two companies to sign they would release the information on trust that we would eventually both sign it. Just goes to show how much NDAs are really token gestures.Co-incidentally I was speaking to a top London media lawyer and he said that in actuality NDAs are pretty much useless. He believes that no claim has ever been successfully been brought in relation to breach of an NDA! He said they are really a token gesture and I was talking to someone else today on the same subject who said they perform a function of keeping lawyers employed! 🙂

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  3. NDA's are old school. Try to get a VC to sign one. If you dont trust the people you are talking to then you probably should be re-thinking why you are talking to them. The worst NDA is the internal corporate NDA, we have a lot of these types of things where as an employee I am asked to agree to another NDA internally. No thank you. If you dont trust me then fire me or dont have me work on the project.

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