Walking Too Close to the Line

How close to the line can you walk without going over?  When I perform ethics training, I like to roll out a line of masking tape on the floor.  I’ll tell the group I’m training that the space on the right of the line represents unethical conduct, and the space on the left represents ethical conduct.  I then ask people to choose a space where they are comfortable.  Inevitably at least one person stands on top of the line.  Once I had a particularly excitable sales manager leap up and pirouette with his tip toes hugging the edge of the line. 


As compliance professionals we’re expected to take the high road every time, but at the end of the day we’re only human.  Every day we’re confronted by little moments when we must decide how close to walk to the line.  I live in London, and when I travel for work, the cabbies will often hand me a receipt and say, “I left it blank for you,” implying that I can make up whatever number I think I can get away with for reimbursement.  Would anyone at your company make up a number larger than the amount they actually spent?  Would everyone? 


Once the masking tape exercise is complete, I take the group on the stage.  I then put the line on the edge of the stage, then ask the group to imagine the line is the edge of a cliff.  How close do they get to it this time?  I’ll tell you what, I’ve never seen anyone try to pirouette on the edge of the stage!


As a compliance officer, you’re not immune from temptation, and if you fall prey to misbehavior, you’ll let down not only your organization but yourself.  While it’s probably unfair, you’ll be judged more harshly than anyone else in the company if you make a mistake trying to dance on the edge of the line.  Remember – others are watching, and they need you to lead the way as far away from the line as possible.  Believing that you’ll naturally always do the right thing is a trap.  You’re human, and you can fall for temptation and make mistakes.  Staying on guard to avoid temptations can help you to maintain your professional credibility.  But most importantly, it will help you maintain your sense of pride in yourself.