Synchronicity, Compliance and Ethical Behaviour

Synchronicity, Compliance and Ethical Behaviour

“Do you believe in synchronicity?” Believe it or not, Lulu, my parrot, is a psychologist. I am absolutely sure of it. This exceptional specimen of Psittaciformes has much better understanding of psychology than his counterparts among homo sapiens.

“Synchronicity?” That puzzled me. “Yeh kis chidiya ka naam hai?

“Ok, let me tell you. When two things occur simultaneously and are significantly related, but have no causal connection, it is synchronicity. I noticed it when I read that Dr Anita Shantaram submitted her PhD proposal and within ten days Satyam scandal broke out. Her PhD proposal was on the subject of Business Ethics.”

“That’s interesting. It must have made her resolve stronger.”

“It did. And later Dr Anita Shantaram discovered to her dismay that her neighbour Nirav Modi was the mastermind of the infamous diamond scandal! Business ethics was slaughtered at her doorstep! The message she read in these synchronicities was that she had to work to promote business ethics, and she established Ethics India.”

“Oh! Dr Anita found the purpose of her work in the synchronicities. She set up an organization to take her mission forward. It is doing splendid work. I attended her conference called ‘Compliance 10/10’ with the byline ‘Compliance by Choice’ in this week.”

Lulu, my Parrot

“That’s interesting. ‘Compliance by Choice’! Compliance is usually mandated. By rules or by law. But the byline says it should be by choice. Isn’t that the first step for ethical behaviour?”

“I agree. Compliance can be forced, but nobody can mandate ethical behaviour. But unfortunately, compliance itself is under fire.”

“Take the case of the Pirangut factory where fifteen women died in the fire. That factory was functioning since 2012 but had got registered only in December 2020! How does that happen? And the owners had managed to get ISO 9000 certification too.”

“Unbelievable” I said. “The Government decided to do away with the ‘Inspection Raj’ to avoid harassment to the industry by the Inspectors, and to promote voluntary compliance. And there are unscrupulous employers who are exploiting the situation.”

“I am sure that this situation in turn must have led to corruption at a higher scale.”

“Oh, you said it, Lulu. It has. Tatas do not require the mandate of a law to engage in ethical behaviour. But that’s an exception; by and large our Society needs a balance between compliance and ethical behaviour. Remember we are perhaps the only country which has traffic lights and also a police officer on that spot to ensure that people observe the traffic lights!”

“There are several studies conducted in UK about ‘Modern Slavery.’ Their conclusions is ‘We know most global companies have modern slavery in their supply chains’ Read this report which says that 8 million people were living in modern slavery in India in 2016. What compliance are we talking about?

“I agree Lulu. That is why when a law officer said ‘By and large big companies are good on compliance and the problem is mainly in the SMEs (Small and Medium Enterprises)’, I felt that the top level of officers is not in touch with the harsh reality. The situation on the ground level is to be seen to be believed.”

“Compliance is a huge area of concern. The situation is complicated by the fact that several laws are very exacting while some are outdated. Ethical behaviour is receiving some attention, organizations are declaring ‘values’ on their websites. There is an unrecognized problem I see in the corporate world. ….”

With Dr. Anita Shantaram

“What’s that Lulu?”

“When we discuss values we have, at the subconscious level, an image of an organization as a monolith entity, which is wrong. It creates wrong actions.”

“What’s that, Lulu?”

“We must see an organization as a river. They say you can’t enter the same river twice. Similarly with people constantly entering and exiting the organization, you enter a different organization every day. A senior level change of manager leads to creating a different kind of organization. Each manager comes with his agenda, short term and long term, and each one comes with his inadequacies. A yesterday’s organization is not the same as today’s organization. And the values get tested at the actions of every employee, it’s a herculean task to maintain uniformity ….”

“But don’t organizations make their values clear? How could this happen?”

“It happens because value descriptions get interpreted differently by people. It is bound to happen. Organizations should focus less on value descriptions and more on discussing value dilemmas. When we discuss value dilemmas, we realize that in a dilemma we have to choose between two right options. A good manager must disclose his rationale for the choice he makes. Such discussions have a great potential for learning about values. That is how knowledge and learning get transferred within an organization, but unfortunately it does not happen.”

“When you understand values, value dilemmas and the process of making a choice, you promote ethical behaviour. I see your point, Lulu. Moreover, it will help managers in an organization to be consistent.”

“Forget it, man! Consistency is the virtue of fools. This is because each case which requires ethical handling is unique and must have a unique solution. There are no SOPs for ethical behaviour, though broad guidelines exist, and there are SOPs only for compliance.”

“True, Lulu.”

“And that makes Dr. Anita’s work of educating managers a complex task if not a complicated one! Kudos to her for educating people on business ethics, leading conversations on ethical behaviour. Huge task! She not only deserves praise but also our active support.” Lulu looked at me expectantly for my positive nod.

Vivek S Patwardhan

“What you leave behind is not what is engraved in stone monuments, but what is woven into the lives of others.”