Why Your Company Needs a Code of Conduct

code of conduct

They say “One bad apple spoils the whole bunch.”  Indeed, a chemical ethylene, from the rot of an apple, leaks into the barrel and causes premature rotting of all of the other apples.  Similarly, a negative attitude soon creates a negative workplace. 

Fortunately, you can adopt certain policies and written procedures to govern employee ethics and conduct, while helping a business thrive.  Here’s why, and how.

Value of Written Policy

Without written policy, a group can end up constantly reinventing the wheel.  “How did we do that last time?” or “What’s the best way to go about that?” become regular questions, without written policy to govern critical decisions.  Written policy can help:

  • Improve efficiency — No need to coordinate on tasks for which written policy already exists.
  • Empower employees — So long as everyone knows what the rules are, they can act fairly autonomously.
  • Provide guidance — Particularly when it comes to a code of ethics, having a written guideline leaves less doubt on appropriateness of workplace behavior.

With so many recent headlines regarding accusations of workplace assault, another advantage of having a written behavioral policy is that all doubt or questions of ethics can be removed: act within governing policy for code of ethics and you invite a positive working environment.  Fail to follow the guidelines, and your workplace has clear grounds for warning, correcting or dismissing you.

Once you see how negativity affects workplace success, or a negative work culture diminishes the creative power of each and every one of your employees, you can see how written policy and a code of conduct do not bind or restrict your team–instead they make it possible for positivity and production to flourish.

Guidelines essentially, protect the entire group.

What to Include in a Code of Conduct

Once you have decided you are interested in creating written policy in the form of a code of conduct, what do you include?  For most businesses, you will likely find industry standard codes of conduct or codes of ethics on the internet, which can help serve as templates for your business, or at least provide you with some points to consider.  You will also need to gather the laws in your area, as they pertain to employee behavior, so that your code of conduct has a legal framework.  Particularly if you intend to include any sort of requital within your written policy (outlining such things as “fireable offenses”), you may want to have legal counsel review your draft before officially publishing it to your employees.

Here are some points to consider, in a workplace code of conduct:

  • Dress code
  • Attendance policy
  • Computer use agreement
  • Use of any other workplace resources
  • Safety standards
  • Non-disclosure, trade secrets, or non-compete agreements
  • Theft agreements, including theft of intellectual property
  • Non-discrimination statements, with definitions and examples of what your workplace would consider discriminatory behavior
  • Non-hostility, no harassment, or no abuse working environment policy, with definitions and examples of behavior that your workplace would not tolerate
  • Employee relationships policy, with guidelines regarding such
  • Relationships with clients, which many industries do not allow or have best practices for restrictions regarding
  • Any other situations your business or industry have encountered, which it might be best to include in written format

Structural Support for Success

Most employees would never dream of participating in any truly unethical behavior, but as you can see there are other areas that without specific guidelines to your industry might differ widely (such as computer use policies).  By having a code of conduct you remove all doubt of what constitutes appropriate workplace behavior, and create an environment where everyone can truly thrive.

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