Can alleged corruption at the highest level of society, as revealed this week by the ‘Panama Papers’, teach us anything about workplace discipline and core professional rules and values?

Workplace discipline can be difficult to manage. In large organisations comprised of multiple teams, discipline is a necessity. That’s both in terms of simply getting the work done, and the manner in which it is carried out.

Dissent may occur if certain people fall out of line, grow a larger than normal ego, or are perceived by others as being special. ‘Oh, him?! He just does what he wants anyway. The rules don’t apply to him.’

But such ‘rules’ can often be vague notions, particularly the higher up the salary bands you climb.  They can be put in place, recorded in black and white, filed, saved and forgotten about.  The key question is whether they are upheld, or even how they can be evaded.

Panama Papers Scandal

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Such questions have been placed in the spotlight by the Panama Papers scandal. It suggests mass ‘dodgy dealings’, corruption, sanctions avoidance, off-shore tax evasion at the highest levels of society by the most powerful business people in the world.

You might raise an eyebrow.  Rich and powerful people are corrupt? How is this such big news?  And it’s arguably some distance removed from workplace discipline.

However, it does reflect how particular people develop alternative codes of conduct; how some are prone to try and take advantage wherever they can. Whether it’s moral or ethical, wrong or right, the blinkered and unashamedly selfish ‘survival of the fittest’ or ‘dog eat dog’ mentality is one that prevails in all sorts of workplaces.

It’s what many attribute to success, and a mind-set that is often promoted as being a good, strong one of high achievers or those belonging to a higher social strata.

If it works, you can get away with it, all power to you. That literally appears to be the case in the higher echelons with the Panama Papers.

When wrongdoing is made public, we might hope for change, correction or punishment. In some cases regulation is strengthened or companies add new levels of compliance. But this isn’t to say that more stringent rules always work in reducing risk.

[Read the Atlantic Resource blog post: Doing Redundancy Well]

How do you want to be in the workplace?

So how do you personally conduct yourself when it comes to workplace discipline? Much might come down to your politics, your upbringing, your ambition, your experience, your inherent attitudes, values and beliefs.

Clearly it’s a combination of different factors that we might not consider as regularly as we might. It’s hard to stand apart from and be objective about, but it is possible to try.

Hawkplant Construction Site

How do you want your workplace discipline to be?

For those governing any workplace in the shape of employers, an appreciation of company culture is necessary to building a compliant workforce.  Monitoring and being aware of company culture is an on-going process which may be formalised through HR departments. It should impact a senior understanding how culture impacts on day-to-day behaviours of staff, and shape your expectations of them.

Rules and regulations are a necessary part of any workplace, vital in keeping order and influencing behaviour. Maintaining discipline is important in business accountability, defining targets, developing and improving individually and on a wider scale.

[Read the Atlantic Resource blog post: Big Decision Making Is Never Easy]

In an ideal world the business playing field would be level, workplace discipline would be relatively standard. All businesses would apply the same rules, regulations, principles and professional integrity. But we can only control certain things.

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