Comply with Me | Wolters Kluwer
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  • Comply with Me

    Published July 28, 2017

    Currents magazine, National Society of Compliance Professionals, Summer 2017

    Your questions, asked and answered.
    With Barbara Boehler

    Q: How do you deal with office gossip? As a compliance officer, I’m having trouble striking a balance between being a co-worker who wants to be in the know, and one of the gang, but that balance is especially tricky in my role.

    A: “If there is anything more annoying in the world than having people talk about you, it is certainly having no one talk about you.” --Oscar Wilde

    I might amend that quote to “…having no one talk to you.” An essential element in our ability to effectively do our jobs as compliance officers is information. Knowledge is power… that is, knowledge about our compliance program. We ingest it, aggregate it, analyze it, amend it, monitor it, and then report it.

    Quite frankly, we live it. The answer to this reader’s question lies primarily, I think, with the quality of the information that we need to access, together with our perceived role by others. While it’s important we have strong relationships with our co-workers, internal clients, and stakeholders, does that mean we need to feel compelled to join in when some juicy tidbit is circulating around the water cooler in order to be accepted?

    After all, Erma Bombeck wrote, “Some say our national pastime is baseball. Not me. It’s gossip.” Unfortunately, peer pressure exists in the workplace, and most of us want to get along, to be liked. After a particularly bruising (to me) conversation years ago with a portfolio manager, one of my favorite managers took me aside: “Barbara, you are not here to be liked.” While in part it gladdened me to hear I was fulfilling that lofty compliance officer’s expectation, my feelings were still hurt. But there was a lot of truth to his counsel. I don’t recommend that we actively court the ire of our peers. I recognize that not all compliance directives are popular (e.g. “So let me get this straight, you want my wife—who is not an employee—to pre-clear her trades??”).

    Hopefully your business people recognize that you are often just the messenger. My suggestion is not that you park your soapbox next to the water cooler and lecture co-workers on the dangers of gossip.

    Rather, steer clear of all gossip of a personal nature, as it will ultimately reflect poorly on you and potentially damage your credibility and ability to be what we all aspire to—a “trusted advisor.”

    The danger of dealing in gossip far outweighs its value as information. You can’t really trust it. And if we deal in gossip, we are undermining our ability to reflect the trust part. By virtue of your position within the firm you probably routinely come into contact with sensitive information. You might review employee statements and confirmations, you might pre-clear trades, approve political contributions, or even read personal email and man the whistleblower hotline. You have within your control powerful information that can damage others personally and professionally if it were common knowledge. But you need this information, and employees need to feel comfortable coming to you with sensitive information and trust that it will not become the focus of next month’s lunch room chatter. In short, protect your personal brand, influence and objectivity as a compliance officer -- take the higher road.

    About the Author

    Barbara Boehler is a Regulatory Compliance Consultant at Wolters Kluwer, She can be reached at:

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