How to Navigate the Gray Areas of Compliance

Being a compliance officer requires us to constantly open our eyes to new information. New regulations, better ways of getting our job done, research into innovative tools that optimize our performance and make compliance management just a little bit easier. It’s a relatively young field that is always changing in an industry that is as dynamic as ever.

Part of the reason that learning and research are so fundamentally important is that compliance can be a “gray area” type of profession. It’s easy to respond to “black or white” questions but, as we all know, the issues that often escalate to your desk are the “gray area,” not-so-easy questions.

Over the years, I’ve found that my compliance officer decisions are more accepted when I use references, citations, examples and facts to back them up. This is not always true, of course, but usually when I eliminate an emotional urge to respond and use the analytical side of my brain, I fare much better, earn more trust and exude more confidence. This is not to say we should "drown everyone in our organization with legal talk," but rather, we should provide sound evidence for the decisions we are making as compliance officers.

A great way to back up your decision is to use the most recent (and applicable) enforcement or settlement example. But be cautious, it can be difficult to find an example that is exactly the same as the one you are trying to resolve. And, if the facts even slightly differ, the uncooperative recipient will sniff it out like a shark and quickly dismiss your example.

Download our free checklist, 7 Things Every Compliance Officer Should Know, and learn how to understand the business you’re in and where compliance fits, build a trusting relationship with coworkers, and use tools to simplify your workday.

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