It’s tough getting employees in organisations to follow corporate codes of good behaviour. Achieving compliance is now a major growth industry across many developing nations.
Recently charged with spearheading Barclays group-wide compliance function, Sir Hector Sants, previously head of the UK’s financial regulator, has just taken three months leave of absence–a victim of exhaustion and stress.
Nor is Sir Hector alone in finding the compliance role extremely demanding. Compliance professionals generally have a long history of being highly goal-oriented, setting high expectations for themselves; anything less than perfection may be the cause of a downhill spiral. These professionals feel they are expected to know everything and usually work long and focused hours.
Not only do compliance staff get totally caught up in work-related behaviours they can be workaholics, taking life too seriously and losing their natural ability to laugh and smile.
For example a survey by the Society of Corporate Compliance and Ethics and the Health Care Compliance Association for example in January 2012 revealed a profession under extreme stress. Some 60% of compliance professionals have considered leaving their jobs because of stress.1
So what advice might one give poor Sir Hector as he languishes at home recovering from his all too brief reforming efforts at Barclays? For when he returns he’s likely to find the bank still embroiled in a clutch of expensive investigations, particularly over the bank’s 2008 capital raising in Qatar.
The first message for Sir Hector, and indeed the rest of his compliance colleagues is pay close attention to your work life balance. If that sound like a cliché, fine, just do it! Start setting boundaries for yourself and stop trying to do the impossible. In compliance that means not expecting the systems you create to actually create ethical engagement.
Secondly, get to grips with the reality that technology has now obliterated the boundaries between work and home. So for example, just being at home does not mean you are not working for the bank.
During your enforced three months leave Sir Hector, you’ll still be contributing if you start to re-think what this compliance thing is all about. It’s about generating ethical engagement—not going through the motions and setting up elaborate control systems that ultimately won’t make a huge difference to reducing corporate risk.
1 Avoiding career burnout in healthcare compliance, HCCA Compliance Institute, National Harbor, MD, April 23, 2013
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