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To Record … or Not Record?

Angie Morgan, August 20, 2018


To Record ... or Not Record?

I’ve been thinking a lot this week about what the circumstances would have to be if I were to record a private conversation. 

I’m only coming up with one answer:

None. (Not entirely true*) 

I don’t think there are any circumstances where I would privately record a conversation without telling the other party. 

Even if … 

– My boss was inappropriate 
– My colleagues were verbally abusive 
– I was privy to a situation where ethics were in question 

I feel there are other courses of action than to abuse what I believe is the most sacred thing among relationships: Trust

When I was a midshipman at the University of Michigan, preparing to become a Marine officer, I learned the simplest, and possibly the best, phrase to guide me through life: 

                               A midshipman does not lie, cheat or steal. 

What great advice to receive at 18 when I was on my own, without parental over watch, and the temptations to lie, cheat or steal were more in my face than ever before. 

At this impressionable and important stage in my life, I was learning the foundations of integrity. I was understanding that with integrity, I could be a person of sound character. Without it, I would be a disappointment to myself and others. 

So, back to the recording. There are too many headlines lately about secret tapes, secret meetings, and secret recordings. My guidance is that if you ever feel like you need to record anything sensitive without the other person’s permission, check in with yourself first so you can understand your motivation:
 
– Are you doing it to self-preserve or self-protect
– Are you doing it to embarrass or defame

If your answer is “yes” to any of these, think about a better course of action. If things are really bad at work, quit. If you’re really trying to trash someone’s character, know that the recording says more about you than it does about the other person. No one wins in a character war.  If you’re observing something unethical, confront the situation or, when appropriate, escalate to someone who can do something about it.

We all have to live with ourselves in the end. When we take the high road, we’ll never be disappointed. 

*I would secretly record a conversation if I knew that the tape would do something critically important for mankind – prevent nuclear war, expose human traffickers, foil a terrorist attack. Of course, if I was in the position to record any of these details, I’d probably be some sort of paid spy. And I’m not … just your friendly leadership development consultant.

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