FCPA Compliance and Ethics Blog

October 18, 2013

Ethics, Compliance and School Drop-Off Etiquette

Ed. Note-today we have a guest post from Jay Rosen, Vice President, Language Solutions at Merrill Brink International. He shares with us how he stopped worrying about early morning road rage and learned to embrace his fellow compliant (and noncompliant) parents.

I recently returned from the Society of Corporate Compliance and Ethics 13th annual Compliance and Ethics Institute (CEI) in Washington, DC.  I would like to thank CEI Co-chairs Dan Roach and Odell Guyton, as well as SCCE CEO Roy Snell and his entire team for running and executing one of the premier ethics and compliance conferences in the world.

Last fall, I attended my first SCCE event — the 12th annual CEI.   Over the past year I have been moved by the passion, commitment and generosity of the SCCE and Compliance and Ethics community.  I have developed great virtual and over- the-phone friendships and it is an added bonus to meet in person with colleagues from all over the world and across the country.  I am already looking forward to the 14th CEI which will be held in Chicago from September 14 – 17th, 2014.

With much joy, I was settling back into my routine and taking my five year old twin daughters to kindergarten.  While I was away, one of the parents sent an email to the entire kindergarten class parents list serve which shared the following…

Exhibit 1

 “To the dear parent (mom) who drives a black Cadillac Escalade, when you get to school’s gate in the morning and realize other parents are waiting in front of the gate, please do not go to the other side of the street and make a left turn in front of everyone else who is waiting there before you. I am sure everyone else’s time is as valuable as yours. Thank you for your cooperation.

From: another mom who was waiting outside for ten minutes

Exhibit 2

Dear Mom who was Waiting Outside for Ten Minutes,

Thank you for posting!  Let’s provide a safe learning environment for our children and lead by our positive actions.
Exhibit 3

Dear Jay 

Thank you very much for your support. After two angry e mails from two parents about why I used their e mail to send them this posting, yours is very supporting. I hope at least this posting will help others realize what they do is wrong.

As this is a new experience for kindergartners, going to class with the “BIG” kids, being dropped off by Mommy or Daddy (mostly DaddyJ), the school has made special provisions for parents to drop their children off in front of the kindergarten class between 7:45 – 8:00 AM.  While this is a courtesy for the parents, it is most importantly intended to provide a safe introduction for kids into their new daily school routine.

If a parent arrives before 7:45 AM, they are supposed to simply pull to the curb and wait until the gate opens precisely at 7:45.  Over a five minute span, anywhere between 2 and 7 vehicles will get in line.  Without fail, there are two things that can happen –

  • One parent (usually driving a black SUV, this is LA after all), decides to cut the line, zoom up to the front and power through just as the gates are opening.  Either a case of too many Vente drips this morning, or maybe having recently completed watching all 7 episodes of The Fast and the Furious or
  • Another inventive parent, comes from the other side of the street and executes an illegal U-turn into three lanes of on-coming morning school/rush hour traffic

I have twin 5.5 year old daughters (who many of you know about and have been forced to see all of their pictures… especially “Sassy Girls Going to Disneyland”)and one of them is always concerned with the concept of being “Fair”.  So let’s look at this situation through the lens of being Fair and Safe.

This rule was designed with having our children’s safety in mind.  Let’s create a safe way, to help our children transition into loving their education and at the same time, create a convenient way for parents to drop off their kids.  So far, so good.  Sounds like a good idea.  Right

When one parent begins to feel that his or her time is more “Valuable” than another’s that is where the problems begin.  Hmmm… let’s see if we can paint this dilemma in a business context.  Perhaps there is an industry or global standard designed to ensure workplace safety, clean production of milk powder or even provide a level playing field for conducting global business and winning sales contracts.  Once one parent or Company feels that they are above the rest, we start down a slippery slope.

This hits at the crux of why people and companies should act in an ethical way.  Should we follow rules, laws and industry standards because it is the right thing to do, or should we follow these rules because they have been designed to safeguard certain situations?

Being the recovering screen writer that I am, the vision of Tom Hulce from Animal House pops into my head with a devil and angel hovering over his shoulders.

Obviously, in my potential Pre-School Road Rage Drop-off Scenario, there is only one acceptable way of behaving and it is precisely for both of these reasons.  Safely observe the drop-off to ensure our children’s safety and because it is the right thing to do.

Now when face with this decision in the business world, it should be an equally simple choice to make.  Do the right thing.  But once money, power, prestige, hitting monthly sales targets, and a slew of other factors come into play, it becomes a less clear cut and harder decision to make.

So Jay, umm, great story and all, but you said that you were going to impart something to us about Compliance and Ethics.  Yep, that’s right.  Just as Tom Hulce did in Animal House, we often have those two competitive forces within us – Right and Wrong, Good and Bad, Red Sox and Yankees… but at the end of the day, we need to make the right choice.

For most of us of us, this is an extremely hard thing to do.  But thanks to the vision of Dan Roach, Odell Guyton and the leadership of Roy Snell, over the past 13 years, the SCCE has created a kindergarten for business leaders and compliance and ethics practitioners to learn and develop the proper tools to help their colleagues make the right choices in difficult and challenging situations.

Robert Fulghum penned his famous book — All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten.   And I would add, “All I Really Need to Know (about Ethics and Compliance) I Learned at the SCCE CEI.  Now if only I could find a way to deal with my morning drop-off rage.  Hey, how about cutting down on those 3 14 oz New England Patriot travel mugs of coffee each morning…

Jay Rosen is a Vice President, Language Solutions at Merrill Brink International, based in Los Angeles, where he advises businesses and law firms on translation solutions for FCPA, Ethics, Compliance, Code of Conduct and eLearning. He can be reached via email at jay.rosen@merrillcorp.com and via phone at 310-729-6746.


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