Without trust there can be no betrayal

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Without trust there can be no betrayal

Some time ago we had the chance to speak with a man who for many years had shared an office with Robert Hanson, the FBI agent who gave secrets to the Russians. I asked him how he felt about having shared so much of his life with this man, and whether he felt, for lack of a better word, silly about not having realized Hanson was a spy.

He said that no, he didn’t. From his perspective there were two Bob Hansons. There was the good Bob Hanson that he knew and liked, who would have never done such a thing, and there was the bad Bob Hanson that he didn’t know, who did these things.

The point here is that for many in business there is a good chance that you will end up knowing, even if only in passing, someone who is stealing company secrets. An annual cost to American companies of $300 billion is a clue that there is a lot of theft going on, and it would be more surprising if your company weren’t a victim, and if you never met someone who was a thief. If you are a reader of this Journal you might well be the person who hired the thief. Should you feel betrayed when this happens? Obviously!

Should you feel foolish? If you have taken prudent measures to prevent information theft, then no. You have probably stopped others.

If the FBI and the CIA, who are way more paranoid than are you, can’t completely stop theft of information, there is no reason to believe that you should be able to. However, you should be able to prevent much of it, and to detect most of the rest of it. But business – life – depends largely on trust. And while there can be no betrayal without trust, that is not reason to abandon trust, just as trust in not a reason to abandon prudence.

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