As part of my engagement, I am interviewing executives and board members across the company. As part of this, I am privy to a lot of confidential information, some of which, while not illegal or dangerous, seems like something I should relate to the CEO since it seriously affects the performance of the company.
This is both a professional and an ethical question - and, yes, the two are related. Part of your job as a trusted advisor is to conduct yourself and your activities consistent with the terms and expectations of your client. If you are conducting confidential interviews on behalf of your client, those interviews are confidential except in cases of imminent danger or criminal activities. In those cases, consistent with the IMC USA Code of Ethics, you are obligated to advise the proper authorities, inside or outside of the company.
In your case, you are now aware of information that may be inflammatory, exciting, possibly of interest to your client, and seemingly inappropriate. However, if this information does not constitute an imminent threat or cross legal boundaries, you are bound to maintain the confidence implicit (and hopefully explicit in your preface to each interview) in each private discussion. Tip:
Discuss with your client when the engagement starts these kind of issues. If you are uncomfortable with the terms of your engagement (e.g., your client demands to know everything regardless of your stated confidentiality), then you need to recuse yourself from the interviews or the entire engagement. © 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA