The Well – Being of Privacy Professionals: A Critical Component for Success


The fields of privacy and data protection are fairly new areas of professional activity. Certainly the last generation+ has seen an explosion in job growth. The question naturally arises, then, as to whether individuals working in the area are happy and professionally satisfied. Do they derive professional satisfaction? Are they thriving? Is stress in the workplace too much? Are they supported by their leadership? Do they have a satisfactory work – home balance? Does job stress cause privacy pros to seek relief by turning to alcohol, drugs, and other substances? These are all critical questions that need to be asked as the areas of privacy and data protection continue to develop on a global level.

Another field, law, has been grappling with the topic of lawyer well – being for a number of years now. In fact, the topic of lawyer well – being is being addressed by a number of state bar associations in the United States. In 2017 the National Task Force on Lawyer Well – Being released a report, which was based on a 2016 survey of 13,000 practicing attorneys. That survey found that too many lawyers are not thriving. The reader is encouraged to check out this material at: https://lawyerwellbeing.net/.

I was honored to be appointed to the Wisconsin Lawyer Well – Being Task Force, which is an example of a state bar association addressing the critical importance of lawyer well – being. The 2017 National Task Force Report serves as a guide for our work in Wisconsin (for a number of years the State Bar of Wisconsin has had the Wisconsin Lawyer Assistance Program (WisLAP) but we are looking at the program consistent with the National Task Force report). While the Wisconsin Task Force has just started its work, it naturally got me thinking about the well – being of privacy professionals.

The National Task Force conceptualized a holistic approach that, in the privacy realm, begins with the question: How should we define well – being for privacy professionals?

This holistic approach, courtesy of the National Task Force, considers the following dimensions:

  • Emotional: Value emotions. Develop ability to identify and manage our emotions to support mental health, achieve goals, and inform decisions. Seek help for mental health when needed.
  • Intellectual: Engage in continuous learning. Pursue creative or intellectually challenging activities that foster ongoing development. Monitor cognitive wellness.
  • Occupational: Cultivate personal satisfaction, growth, and enrichment in work. Strive to maintain financial stability.
  • Physical: Strive for regular activity, good diet & nutrition, enough sleep, and recovery. Limit addictive substances. Seek help for physical health when needed.
  • Spiritual: Develop a sense of meaningfulness and purpose in all aspects of life.
  • Social: Develop connections, a sense of belonging, and a reliable support network. Contribute to groups and communities.

This is an impressive list. At one level, the reader will think they are generic enough to apply to any occupation or field. But, what unique dimensions may be teased out for the areas of privacy and data protection?

One common fact situation that I see discussed on social media platforms is when data protection officers (DPOs) are not fully supported by company leadership and / or not being fully integrated into the culture of the company / entity / institution. These problems, in a generic sense, are common to other jobs and areas in the professional world. But, the difference is that the modern world of privacy and data protection is slightly more than one generation old and are coupled with rapid technological development and change. That combination makes privacy + data protection a bit unique at this space in time. And given the way things are right now in the world, change will not be slowing down anytime soon.

So, the discussion comes back to enhancing the well – being of privacy professionals. What can companies and institutions do to enhance their well – being? What can professional associations do? How may a holistic approach be applied so that privacy and data protection professionals thrive?

This post is, for me and hopefully others, the start of a larger discussion about enhancing the well – being of privacy professionals. I’m sold on the holistic approach, but the key is making sure that any approach meets the needs of the target audience. These are exciting times for privacy professionals, and their well – being is a critical component to facilitate their success.

One thought on “The Well – Being of Privacy Professionals: A Critical Component for Success

  1. Interesting Jim.
    I would add the challenge of balancing roles and conflict of interests for privacy professionals who don’t have the luxury of separating functions of which they are responsible for. An example is combining DPO and CISO, whereby one the former one can be likened to a consumer advocate and latter represent the organization.

    The GDPR does not permit this, but in practice this is not happening.

    Like

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