What Jon Snow’s Poorly Kept Secret Teaches Us

What employment lessons can be found in the Game of Thrones finale? Today’s Entertain HR is pleased to explore lessons from conflicts of authority to harboring secrets.
Spoiler alert: This article contains many Game of Thrones spoilers. You have been warned!

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From advice on bringing your dragon to work to hashing out the consequences of serving more than one king, EntertainHR’s lawyer-bloggers have brought you various takeaways from the HBO’s most watched show, Game of Thrones, over the last several months. With the season finale on May 19, 2019, the epic battle for the Iron Throne is over forever. In the final episode, Game of Thrones brought several characters’ storylines to an end—ahem, rather abruptly and, according to some critics, in a manner that was too obvious and too happy.

Before we leave Game of Thrones behind us (except, of course, for the multiple spin-offs that are coming), we wanted to look at a few final lessons from Daenerys Targaryen and friends. In this guest post, Agape Ogbonda, Legal Counsel for Spencer Ogden, Inc., explores three takeaways from the Game of Thrones finale:

1. To serve the realm or the C-suite? That is the question.

In the corporate world, it is not unusual for those who advise business leaders to lose sight of who their client is and, as a result, mishandle conflicts of interest. In season eight of Game of Thrones, Tyrion Lannister believed that his role was to serve Daenerys Targaryen, while Lord Varys believed that the ultimate client was “the realm.”

Perhaps the constitution of Westeros was silent on this area, but for Human Resources managers, in-house counsel, and others in similar roles, the client typically isn’t the CEO, CFO, or other C-suite members. Instead, the client is the corporation, and such employees must serve the good of the company. Of course, making the choice for what is best for the company may not be the popular answer and may have consequences—as Lord Varys learned the hard way.

2. Shhh! It’s a secret.

Have you ever shared information with a third party that you swore to keep secret? Surprise birthday details? An engagement proposal?

What happens if an employee shares information with you and asks you to swear an oath “to the old gods and new” promising to keep such information confidential, even though you know that you have a legal obligation to share such information?

In season 8, Jon Snow ignored Daenerys Targaryen’s plea for him to keep his true identity confidential. Jon Snow then tried to hold Sansa and Arya Stark to the same duty of confidentiality that he failed to keep. Within a few scenes, Sansa Stark told Tyrion Lannister, who told Lord Varys, who then wrote letters to every lord and lady he had contact details for.

During internal workplace investigations, employees often may provide information and insist that it be kept confidential. It is extremely important that if faced with such requests, you manage the employees’ expectations and inform them that in order to properly carry out an investigation, you cannot guarantee confidentiality but that any information shared will be done so on a need-to-know basis.

3. Notice Periods

It’s been rumored that a new job opportunity to write the next Star Wars trilogy caused Game of Thrones writers to rush through season eight. Regardless of whether this is true, it does call into question how employers handle employees who are transitioning to new opportunities. From the time that notice is formally submitted, employers may sometimes allow employees to work a few extra days or weeks to help transition clients and information or even help train the replacement.

Some employees are capable of maintaining their performance levels during this period, while others allow their standards to slip—and in this period, mistakes can happen, and the overall quality of output falls. It is important that employers communicate their expectations for this transitionary period and monitor output levels or face dealing with petitions from angry clients/customers asking for the services to be performed again.