What Compliance can learn from the Coronavirus crisis

As the novel coronavirus pandemic (even though the WHO cannot yet bring itself to call it so) keeps developing very dynamically worldwide, we see that in a crisis where people’s, yes entire populations‘ health and ultimately also some people’s lives at stake, the impact on stock markets exceeds the „usual“ risks that organizations face and which are already factored into the share prices.

Thinking how easy it is apparently to catch Coronavirus (in New York City, a man who drove his infected neighbor to the hospital caught the virus), one could argue that protection of oneself and workplace colleagues is an ethical imperative. And knowingly exposing oneself to a higher risk of catching the virus would amount to misconduct quite similar to connecting a computer without malware protection to the internet.

And yet: Look how we are managing compliance of employees with the most basic personal safety measures like washing hands or sneezing into your elbow… Do we establish hand washing Policies and SOPs, training and certification for all employees? Do we monitor handwashing, control and enforce the rules? Are the sanctions for „misconduct“ like coughing without covering one’s mouth or heartily sneezing into the open space office- which may in the current situation really put people’s health at risk?

No, we don’t. What we see are posters hung up on the walls in frequented places snd next to washbasins that demonstrate how easy it is to behave properly, how exactly hands should we washed; and we see hand disinfectant dispensers installed in easily reachable locations, in cafeterias etc. In plan view, easy to reach…

If we rely on such measures for affecting people’s behavior to protect their health and lives, what does this tell us about the assumed effectiveness of „traditional“ compliance management?

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