Wouldn’t it be easier if we all had the same code of ethics for handling situations? While this may not be possible in everyday life, you can at least establish this for your company through the code of conduct policy. Read on to learn how!

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What Is a Code of Conduct?

The best way to describe a code of conduct is by looking at it as the “company normal.” Think of it as a guideline or a set of rules that define the standards, values, and principles that explain what is expected of every employee. A code of conduct is written out and given to each employee typically via the employee handbook. Even without the support of the handbook, the code of conduct can stand alone and be given with additional new hire training materials.

Why Is a Code of Conduct Important?

Now that you understand what code of conduct is, let’s go over a few reasons why it is important for every organization to have one:

  • Clarifies vision. Setting a clear vision for the organization in the code of conduct allows employees to understand company expectations for all. You’re showing employees the values the company wants to foster company-wide, from the top down, and that’s a powerful tool.
  • Sets benchmarks. Clear expectations always create a more productive work environment and the code of conduct will do just that. The ethics requirements written in the code of conduct allows your organization to utilize them as benchmarks to measure performance company-wide.
  • Mitigates risks. Your code of conduct will provide clear policies surrounding ethical issues such as harassment in the workplace. This helps your employees understand what is expected of them at your organization. This alleviates the need to justify punishment when violations occur and lowers the risk of violations at all because of the clear expectations in the code of conduct.
  • Increases morale. When the company demands equality and respect from all employees, morale increases. Employees feel respected by the organization as they move forward in respecting their team members. It’s truly a win-win situation.

Examples of Codes of Conduct

The types of conduct codes that should be in your document range from dress code regulations, employee break policies, and leave policies to reporting misconduct and bullying. Let’s go over a few examples of what code of conduct may look like in your organization.

Bullying

This is a sample paragraph you could include in your company’s code of conduct: “At our company, all employees have the right to a safe working environment free from bullying of any kind. The organization will not tolerate bullying in any form. Bullying can be defined as: intimating, coercing, or seeking to harm another employee; a blatant and deliberate misuse of power through either verbal, physical, or social means. Conduct that constitutes bullying is prohibited by the organization.”

Discrimination

For a discrimination paragraph, it’s best to go straight to the equal employment opportunity commission’s site and compose your policy from there. With that in mind, consider something like the following: “All employees shall abide by the company policy to prohibit discrimination in any form. No employee shall be subject to discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, gender, age, marital status, disability, political or religious beliefs, national or ethical origin, or sexual orientation. Employees will refrain from discrimination and retaliation in all forms at the organization.”

Dress Code

Dress code may be subject to your organization’s preference, but be sure it’s as specific as you can to avoid a bunch of questions. Look for something like: The dress code of the organization is defined as casual. Employees shall be physically clean, neat, and well-groomed and shall dress in a manner consistent with being a professional. Employees are free to wear jeans free of rips, tears, or holes and t-shirts void of any screen print or offensive language. Should the employee be on-site for a work day, we ask that employees wear business professional attire including: slacks, skirts or dresses, nice blouses or button-down shirts, and professional shoes.”

Conflicts of Interest

When it comes to a conflict of interest, be direct and qualify what this may look like for your organization. For example: “No active employee of the organization shall engage in conduct which creates a conflict of interest. Conflict of interest can be defined as: a situation in which regard for private interest tends to lead to disregard of business duty or interest.”

Tips for Writing a Code of Conduct

When writing your code of conduct, it’s important to focus your thoughts and ensure the policy will benefit the organization. Let’s look at a few tips to help get you started:

Tip 1: Use Clear Language

It doesn’t matter what policy you’re writing in your code of conduct, from the communication policy to the detailed intoxication policy, the language should be clear and easy to follow. Employees reading the code of conduct will not understand a bunch of legal jargon. They expect something they can understand that is relatable in their everyday work environment. While it’s important to use qualifying words to justify the policy at times, be sure not to bog down the descriptions so that your employees can’t follow expectations clearly.

Tip 2: Use Definitions

The use of definitions goes a long way for any policy you’ll establish within the organization. Establishing exactly what the organization defines as a company break or how the organization qualifies the use of company property will be beneficial in establishing the rules surrounding those issues. The definition does not have to be long and drawn out. You can even utilize definitions from applicable laws like the EEOC’s definition on harassment. Just remember to make it specific to your organization in some way and you can’t go wrong.

Tip 3: Give Examples

When possible, always give examples in your code of conduct policy. The more detailed you can be (without being overly wordy), the more you will protect your organization from ambiguity. If you’re writing your dress code policy, go into some detail about what is acceptable in the office so that employees can’t blur the lines. While this won’t solve every dress code issue, clearly defined policies with examples will set you up to better combat the issues as they arise.

Tip 4: Get Opinions

After you have composed what you believe to be a solid code of conduct, it’s best to get opinions and even a second (or third or fourth) set of eyes on the document. Writing policies can be draining and you may have missed important issues that should be included, like reporting misconduct or the employee break policy. You may have added too much information under the tardiness/absenteeism section. Get an outside perspective to see the areas for improvement and adapt accordingly before you present it for approval or publish it for your employees.

Questions You’ve Asked Us About Code of Conduct

This can be outlined in your code of conduct policy and should be the same for every employee. Typically the repercussions range from a write-up to termination depending on how many times the employee has not followed the policy.
HR should be the point of contact and creator of the code of conduct. They should partner with executives or company leaders to clearly cast the vision and qualify expectations for employees.
Shalie Reich
Shalie Reich

Shalie has over 4 years of experience working in a variety of HR positions and organizations including: working as an HR department “of one”, working with a start-up based in Europe, to working in a fully established robust USA based HR department. Shalie has experience in multiple states and countries with all aspects of the HR spectrum. She has a passion to share her knowledge and experience to benefit the HR profession!

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