Goodbye job applications, hello dream career
Seize control of your career and design the future you deserve with LW career

Why compliance culture ‘isn’t the best way’ to address non-compliance

Compliance leaders often prioritise cultivating an ethical work environment to enhance employee conduct. However, a recent survey conducted by Gartner has uncovered that this approach is not generating the intended outcomes.

user iconGrace Robbie 23 April 2024 Corporate Counsel
expand image

A recent study conducted by America-headquartered technological research and consulting firm Gartner has revealed that creating an ethical culture in the workplace to encourage better employee behaviour has only limited success in alleviating concerns regarding compliance.

In December last year, Gartner surveyed 1,012 employees to identify situations that lead to employee non-compliance.

Gartner discovered that “there are three primary situations that lead to non-compliance: situations of uncertainty (not understanding how to comply), rationalisation (thinking that non-compliance is not wrong in a certain context), and malice (not complying despite knowing it is wrong)”.


The survey findings revealed that uncertainty emerged as the primary cause of non-compliance among employees, with “87 per cent of respondents stating they faced situations where they didn’t know how to comply in the last 12 months”.

This was followed by 77 per cent of respondents reporting experiences of rationalisation, while 40 per cent reported experiences of malice.

In response to these findings, Chris Audet, the vice-president and chief of research in the Gartner for legal, risk and compliance leaders practice, expressed: “Compliance culture is a valuable part of mitigating misconduct, but it isn’t the best way to address the most common situation leading to employee non-compliance: uncertainty.”

Gartner’s research also uncovered that “improved quality standards – the design of policies, training, communications, and tools – has over double the impact of compliance culture on reducing certainty”.

However, the research findings suggest that compliance culture is still a crucial factor in improving employee behaviour. The research indicates that it “has a great impact on reducing situations of rationalisation and malice, 1.5x and 1.4x, respectively, when compared to quality standards”.

Through analysing the findings, Gartner outlined that companies that place emphasis on “focusing on quality standards” are more likely to witness significant improvements in overall employee compliance.

This is primarily due to the fact that companies have already prioritised compliance culture, and uncertainty has still been identified as the primary factor driving non-compliance.

Regarding the findings they discovered about malice, Gartner expressed that “the fact that 40 per cent of employees said they had been contemplating non-compliance even when they knew it was the wrong thing to do is likely to concern compliance and organisational leadership”.

However, the technological research and consulting firm outlined that the survey they commenced was “measuring employees who wanted to non-comply for a malicious reason, and not all of them will follow through on this desire”.

Despite this, it is still imperative that companies instil measures to address this issue “so monetary feelings of anger don’t escalate to misconduct”.