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Workplace Compliance and the Normalization of Deviance

By Avetta Marketing
August 07, 2018
5 minutes
Workplace Compliance and the Normalization of Deviance

Are there “hidden dangers” lurking in your supply chain? Overlooking a normalization of deviance is one such hidden danger. When employees are “near compliant” rather than “compliant,” your organization is at risk. 

But how can you manage the vetting of all potential contractors, vendors, and suppliers to identify and mitigate risk? Here’s what can be done to resolve normalization and improve the complicated process, so all can return to full workplace compliance.

What Is Compliance in the Workplace?

Compliance in the workplace is the process of verifying that your company, contractors, vendors, and suppliers are following:

  • Federal and State Laws

  • Rules and Regulations

  • Standards

  • Internal Policies

  • Ethical Practices

Enforcing these will help your organization detect violations and prevent fines, lawsuits, and reputation fallout.

How Is Near Compliance Defined and Why Does It Happen?

Compliance is binary—you’re either in compliance or you’re not. Therefore, there really is no such thing as “near compliance,” only non-compliance (although the term is still used).

A main reason near/non-compliance happens is because company policy is too convoluted or poorly communicated. Oftentimes, when the staff doesn’t understand the company standard, they believe that aiming in the general direction of the company standard is good enough. Other times, a lack of understanding leads to frustration and causes employees to ignore standards altogether. 

What is the Normalization of Deviance?

The normalization of deviance is a common cause of non-compliance. If not every employee is following the same standard for safety, a different standard can be easily set by the culture of the worksite. As soon as someone operates outside of the safety standard and nothing adverse happens, that employee is likely to continue the behavior and influence others to do the same. 

In doing so, a new safety standard is set. It might be in parallel to the company’s standard of safety, but it is not the company’s safety standard. It is a normalization of deviance.

Once standards slip, employees get hurt, equipment breaks down, and the supply chain is disrupted. 

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How to Resolve Normalization and Return to Workplace Compliance

Resolving a normalization of deviance and returning to workplace compliance allows a company to begin building a culture of compliance and safety. But how can it be done?

A common reaction to discovering normalization is to “snap back.” When non-compliance causes a disruption, leaders will naturally begin strictly enforcing the company’s standards. However, this new enforcement is artificial, because the culture of normalization hasn’t changed. As such, the organization can expect to return to non-compliance in a matter of time.

Instead of short-term measures, companies plagued by normalization should perform an assessment from leadership all the way down. This will determine who and what is affecting the culture, and discover where variations in policy understanding and enforcement are occurring. 

By the end of the assessment, the company should be able to answer the following questions:

  • What is the commitment level of leadership to the company’s safety standards?

  • How much risk is the company willing to expose itself to?

  • What are the roadblocks to meeting compliance?

A continual culture of compliance is best enforced through a corporate compliance program that includes risk assessments, inspections, ongoing trainings, and contractor management software. Once this foundation is set, a culture of workplace compliance and safety can be rebuilt.


Organizations that establish their brand as having a safety and compliance culture make for the very best in supply chain partners. Do you worry about your organization’s risk exposure?

Get started with Avetta to vet potential contractors, vendors, and suppliers and mitigate your organization’s risk against non-compliance!

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