Tales From The Crypt - Rule No. 10 - Rule – There Is No “I(Ntegrity)” In Team-Part II

by Thomas Fox

Tales from the CryptEd. Note-today we conclude a two-part series from the Two Tough Cookies about some of the toughest choices a compliance practitioner may face. As important as this message is for the compliance practitioner, I hope that this series will be read by senior management as well….As Part I was concluded, the Tough Cookie had just been terminated.

Unfortunately for me, there’s no employment law preventing discrimination based on bullying, jealously or insecurity; no law against termination for simply not liking your subordinate or the subordinate’s ability to garner respect.   The hostile work environment I suffered through the entire prior year was due to her insecurity around me, and not based on any protected class. I simply got the shaft for speaking up and expressing the concerns of the team.   Her mistake? She gave me nothing left to lose.

I’ve had a few weeks to cool down since that initial rush of anger, and revenge is best when served with cold, hard logic, and irrefutable facts. Throwing caution to the wind (well, not entirely), I made the ultimate act of moral courage, and sent a letter to executive management, asking that they review the character of the person that they were entrusting the reputation of the company with. For the first time in my career, I was a whistleblower, one of the “one percenters” I used to joke about that throttled the hotline with endless unsubstantiated complaints of “he said, she said.” Now, I am totally sympathetic to the courage it takes to step up to the plate, stand apart from the crowd, and speak up in the hopes of being an earnest agent for positive change.

When asked what resolution looked like for me,   I replied that I was satisfied that the company took my complaint seriously, that this investigation was taking place. I also asked the investigator to thank the company for taking me seriously. I was asked on several occasions “You want her fired, don’t you?!?” and not once did I say yes, even though I wished for it desperately. My response was merely “I just want the company to be aware of the character and qualifications of the person in this most important role, and that appropriate actions be taken when all is said and done.” I did mention it would be nice to have a job again, but that I had little hope of returning.

What did I expect as an outcome? Nothing. What did I get as a reward for that final act of moral courage? Boatloads. First, and foremost, by taking my time, and reducing my concerns from 20 pages of emotional ranting to less than a handful of concise, fact-laden pages, I came across as legitimate. Second, my patience and due diligence paid off – by taking my time to sort through my emotions and only give a factual account of events, and seeking out someone in authority to hear my case, I ensured that my voice would be heard. The company listened. An investigation ensued. The circumstances were weighed, measured, and she was found wanting.

Being in the integrity department is a tough spot to be in – you are supposed to represent the even hand of justice, you are supposed to be the unbiased, objective observer who gathers facts and makes recommendations, when someone behaves badly towards another. No one EVER stops to think who you can call if you are the one on the receiving end of misconduct, or if you become aware of an issue and confidentiality provisions silence your voice (such as in the case of the dual duty corporate counsel and compliance pro) and hobble your effectiveness to effect positive change. If you find yourself in a dilemma such as mine, circle the wagons, but as Ronald Reagan was fond of saying, “Trust, then verify.” Always remember, Integrity and Compliance is not a team function – it is most often singular acts of moral courage taken by brave individuals that override personal risk and reward. High Integrity often demands that you be willing to risk everything for the sake of integrity, to be labeled a pariah, to be shunned, to be shown the door for voicing the unpopular decision. But many times what is said is what is needed to be said. Just don’t let the situation take you by surprise like I did, or for heaven’s sake, don’t wait an unreasonable time for something to change. When I first suffered demoralizing behavior at her hands and got no relief, I should have escalated the matter, going directly to the TOP of HR, to the TOP of legal, and outlined my concerns to insulate myself from retaliation months earlier. I did not. Instead, I chose to simply wait for the change I had been promised, reluctant to make waves, fearful of establishing a reputation as a “whiner” instead of a “winner.” While my intentions were good, the outcome for me, clearly, was not. Here, the compliance leaders were too inexperienced to understand or appreciate the adverse repercussions from both their actions and inaction.

While I still am searching for that high integrity organization that will recognize and appreciate the value I bring, the insights I can share, and the wealth of experiences that have shaped who I am today, I usually sleep well at night, knowing that I have done no wrong. I have left no casualties behind, and I have always treated people with respect, sometimes more than they deserved.   I understand my former boss is no longer in a role where she manages people, which is a good thing.    In fact, I hear she may be getting a dose of her own medicine, but I sincerely hope not – no one deserves the relentless bullying and belittling, facing each work day fearful of the outcome.  If, through each of life’s trials, we can see the lesson, then we can move forward. I know I am a better person for it, even though I still am suffering the consequences of an extended unemployment.   I daily struggle with the choice of telling the truth about why I left that company (retaliated against for reporting a violation), and opting for a more benign “reason for leaving” (departmental reorganization). The stigma of being perceived as an “undesirable” candidate if I am honest about blowing the whistle is a real concern of mine, and I have been passed over in favor of other candidates because such a short stint at my level does not come across well to potential employers. I don’t want to be caught in a lie, because recovery from that route is nearly impossible when you claim to be an “Integrity” professional. I face a real Hobson’s choice, and it is the one thing that keeps me up at night since whichever path I choose can have lasting negative implications for me both professionally, and personally. I am hopeful for the future – the eternal optimist in me, I guess. I do not relish the prospect of either having to live with a lie, or an interminable time of unemployment and the risk of losing my home and my livelihood for taking the high road – the very dear price of moral courage.

Who are the Two Tough Cookies?

Tough Cookie 1 has spent the more than half of her 20+ legal career working in the Integrity and Compliance field, and has been the architect of award-winning and effective ethics and compliance programs at both publicly traded and privately held companies. Tough Cookie 2 is a Certified Internal Auditor and CPA who has faced ethical and compliance challenges in a variety of industries and geographies and recently led a global internal audit team. Their series “Tales from the Crypt: Tough Choices for Tough Cookies” are drawn largely from real life experiences on the front line of working in Integrity & Compliance, and personal details have been scrubbed to protect, well, you know, just about everyone…

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

© Thomas Fox, Compliance Evangelist | Attorney Advertising

Written by:

Thomas Fox

Compliance Evangelist on:

Readers' Choice 2017
Reporters on Deadline

"My best business intelligence, in one easy email…"

Your first step to building a free, personalized, morning email brief covering pertinent authors and topics on JD Supra:
Sign up using*

Already signed up? Log in here

*By using the service, you signify your acceptance of JD Supra's Privacy Policy.
Custom Email Digest
Privacy Policy (Updated: October 8, 2015):

JD Supra provides users with access to its legal industry publishing services (the "Service") through its website (the "Website") as well as through other sources. Our policies with regard to data collection and use of personal information of users of the Service, regardless of the manner in which users access the Service, and visitors to the Website are set forth in this statement ("Policy"). By using the Service, you signify your acceptance of this Policy.

Information Collection and Use by JD Supra

JD Supra collects users' names, companies, titles, e-mail address and industry. JD Supra also tracks the pages that users visit, logs IP addresses and aggregates non-personally identifiable user data and browser type. This data is gathered using cookies and other technologies.

The information and data collected is used to authenticate users and to send notifications relating to the Service, including email alerts to which users have subscribed; to manage the Service and Website, to improve the Service and to customize the user's experience. This information is also provided to the authors of the content to give them insight into their readership and help them to improve their content, so that it is most useful for our users.

JD Supra does not sell, rent or otherwise provide your details to third parties, other than to the authors of the content on JD Supra.

If you prefer not to enable cookies, you may change your browser settings to disable cookies; however, please note that rejecting cookies while visiting the Website may result in certain parts of the Website not operating correctly or as efficiently as if cookies were allowed.

Email Choice/Opt-out

Users who opt in to receive emails may choose to no longer receive e-mail updates and newsletters by selecting the "opt-out of future email" option in the email they receive from JD Supra or in their JD Supra account management screen.


JD Supra takes reasonable precautions to insure that user information is kept private. We restrict access to user information to those individuals who reasonably need access to perform their job functions, such as our third party email service, customer service personnel and technical staff. However, please note that no method of transmitting or storing data is completely secure and we cannot guarantee the security of user information. Unauthorized entry or use, hardware or software failure, and other factors may compromise the security of user information at any time.

If you have reason to believe that your interaction with us is no longer secure, you must immediately notify us of the problem by contacting us at info@jdsupra.com. In the unlikely event that we believe that the security of your user information in our possession or control may have been compromised, we may seek to notify you of that development and, if so, will endeavor to do so as promptly as practicable under the circumstances.

Sharing and Disclosure of Information JD Supra Collects

Except as otherwise described in this privacy statement, JD Supra will not disclose personal information to any third party unless we believe that disclosure is necessary to: (1) comply with applicable laws; (2) respond to governmental inquiries or requests; (3) comply with valid legal process; (4) protect the rights, privacy, safety or property of JD Supra, users of the Service, Website visitors or the public; (5) permit us to pursue available remedies or limit the damages that we may sustain; and (6) enforce our Terms & Conditions of Use.

In the event there is a change in the corporate structure of JD Supra such as, but not limited to, merger, consolidation, sale, liquidation or transfer of substantial assets, JD Supra may, in its sole discretion, transfer, sell or assign information collected on and through the Service to one or more affiliated or unaffiliated third parties.

Links to Other Websites

This Website and the Service may contain links to other websites. The operator of such other websites may collect information about you, including through cookies or other technologies. If you are using the Service through the Website and link to another site, you will leave the Website and this Policy will not apply to your use of and activity on those other sites. We encourage you to read the legal notices posted on those sites, including their privacy policies. We shall have no responsibility or liability for your visitation to, and the data collection and use practices of, such other sites. This Policy applies solely to the information collected in connection with your use of this Website and does not apply to any practices conducted offline or in connection with any other websites.

Changes in Our Privacy Policy

We reserve the right to change this Policy at any time. Please refer to the date at the top of this page to determine when this Policy was last revised. Any changes to our privacy policy will become effective upon posting of the revised policy on the Website. By continuing to use the Service or Website following such changes, you will be deemed to have agreed to such changes. If you do not agree with the terms of this Policy, as it may be amended from time to time, in whole or part, please do not continue using the Service or the Website.

Contacting JD Supra

If you have any questions about this privacy statement, the practices of this site, your dealings with this Web site, or if you would like to change any of the information you have provided to us, please contact us at: info@jdsupra.com.

- hide
*With LinkedIn, you don't need to create a separate login to manage your free JD Supra account, and we can make suggestions based on your needs and interests. We will not post anything on LinkedIn in your name. Or, sign up using your email address.