Just Breathe: Connecting Wellness to an Ethical Culture

By Bonnie Silvestri

Recently, Gerry Zack, incoming CEO of SCCE & HCCA and Adam Turtletaub, Vice President for Strategic Initiatives and International Programs for SCCE & GCCA, led a webinar called “How Corporate Culture Impacts Compliance – And What to Do About It!” The webinar got me thinking about all the different ways in which an organization can enhance its ethical culture.

During my weekly yoga class, in between carefully calibrated breaths, I pondered how a well-designed wellness program such as we have in Sarasota County Government can go a long way toward maintaining an ethical culture. Sarasota County has as its mission to be the “most livable and best managed community in the country.”

After our final resting pose, I realized that spending Friday afternoons with a group of co-workers coming together to care for our mental and physical well-being leads to a feeling of trust.

I hope that after over a year getting to know me in a context outside of an orientation session, an all-hands meeting, or even an investigation, employees will feel more comfortable reaching out with questions or concerns.

Additionally, employees are likely to feel a greater level of ease broaching ethics and compliance concerns in a work environment that has placed a premium on their own health and wellness. As Nancy Paradise, the county’s manager for employee health and benefits stated: “We are focused on the total well-being, the entire being.” The County offers yoga, relief and resiliency programs, and even classes in Heart Math, teaching you to slow down and regularize your breathing patterns in a heart-focused way. These offerings and more are aimed at helping employees de-stress and increase their focus.

When you feel your personal well-being is valued, it is far more likely that you will also be concerned about the overall health of the organization.

Zack said ethics and compliance staff should consider “using every possible means to achieve your goals” and to enhance the avenues through which employees can come forward with the simplest questions to concerns about a wide-range of complex compliance issues.

Therefore, it seems that we should consider every tool in our tool belt. This can range from having approachable and engaging materials focusing on aspirational goals, to frequent opportunities to work in a cross-disciplinary way throughout an organization, to employee appreciation and recognition events and even to establishing and maintaining a robust wellness program.

This ensures that as Zack said, we are letting the tone “cascade” from the top through the various levels of an organization. The metaphor of ethics and compliance cascading throughout an organization makes me think of a waterfall where rivulets and streams come together to create a great rush of energy meeting in the same place. Presumably, when everyone is in their flow it leads to a healthy ethical culture, and that is our goal.


  1. Bonnie, I love this post! This really resonates with me, as I teach yoga outside of my Ethics role. I am finding a lot of overlap between my ‘two worlds’. I’m wondering if you’ve come across any science-based articles that would support this. Thanks for posting!

Comments are closed.