What Poker Tell[s] You About Compliance

The game of poker is a relentless struggle to gather and evaluate information from the rest of the group. As the master of their own destiny, when seated at a table with 7-9 other individuals, some of whom known very well, others not at all, minimizing risk and the impact that luck has on the game is crucial to long-term success. When faced with a critical decision of whether to risk some, all, or none of his or her chips, a poker player must evaluate what has happened, so that he or she can apply what they have learned.

A compliance professional, managerial employee or corporate executive’s role in the compliance lifecycle is very similar to that of a poker player trying to navigate a high stakes cash game or tournament. Information is critical to decision-making, and things that have happened in the past give a clear eye toward the future. Take for example a situation where a new employee is accused of harassing a long-term employee who is a member of a protected class. As stated above, it is a supervisor’s (or compliance professional) job to investigate the allegations and evaluate the situation so he or she can apply what he has learned. This is very similar to a poker player who is faced with a difficult decision at the table following a betting action that deviates from the norm.

When a poker player raises early in the betting round, the player making the bet is representing to others that he or she has a very strong hand. This type of bet may be indicative of the truth, or could be a “bluff” attempting to extract chips from other players at the table later on in the hand. Managers, compliance professionals, and executives face “bluffs” from their workforce on a near-daily basis. While they may not be overt lies or attempts to mislead, we all know there are always two sides to every story. Just as the poker player uses the information from the past to evaluate how to act, the corporate employee must use his or her training, knowledge of ethics and the law, and the history of the employees at the center of the controversy to make a quick decision on how to act.

An incorrect decision at the poker table can cost a player all of his or her chips. However, a misstep in the corporate world can lead to a triumvirate of evil: A substantial lawsuit, an allegation of white-collar crime, and/or a public relations disaster. By learning to treat compliance like a poker game, and always using available information to evaluate each situation in conjunction with those that have happened in the past (with the caveat that two situations will not always relate to one another, therefore each situation must be evaluated independently), compliance risks can be minimized.

Unfortunately, just as luck plays a role in the game of poker, random variances in behavior an employee actions can influence the outcome of a compliance dilemma. Nevertheless, using all available information and educating your workforce on the issues is the best way to minimize risk and position your company for long-term compliance success. The key takeaway: the only “all in” bets you should be making are on formulating and implementing the best possible compliance plan for your company!

Syntrio is a leader in the ethics and compliance field, with an innovative philosophy towards compliance program design and engaging, entertaining, and thought provoking content. Contact www.syntrio.com for more information about our ethics and compliance online courses for and remember to follow us on TwitterGoogle Plus and LinkedIn for daily updates on compliance that impact your company!

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