To educate and guide others in the organization, a set of ethics, or a code of conduct, should be developed and distributed. Kimberlee Leonard, who writes for the Houston Chronicle, states, “A code of ethics is important for businesses to establish to ensure that everyone in the company is clear on the mission, values and guiding principles of the company.” While it takes some time to create a code of conduct, the ideals involved should already be present in the company’s culture. The elements that belong in a code of conduct, according to Kimberlee Leonard, are:
- Legal considerations. The business is a legal entity, and therefore all employees should be thinking about their behavior and how it could easily turn into a lawsuit. Establishing conduct rules at this level can clear up any gray areas. For example, a company should define what sexual harassment is and what to do if an employee experiences it. New items that detail specific codes of conduct can be added as they come up.
- Value-based ethics. These are specific ethics that dig under the surface of the corporate culture. A business should think about how it wants to be viewed by the community. Examples could be a commitment to green office practices, reduction of a company’s carbon footprint, giving a certain percentage of a company’s profits to the local food pantry to support the community, etc.
- Regulatory ethics. These are designed to maintain certain standards of performance based on the industry. One example is a commitment to maintaining data privacy at all times, as it pertains to customer records. This element defines how employees are to handle sensitive data and what will happen if someone doesn’t follow the rules.
- Professional behaviors. One should never assume that just because someone puts on a business suit and goes to work that he or she will behave professionally. Problems such as bullying, harassment, and abuse can happen in the workplace. Establishing behavioral standards for professionalism should include what is acceptable in the office, while traveling, during meetings, and after hours, when colleagues meet with clients and one another.
A good code of conduct is a working document that can be updated and shared as needed. Many companies include this document as part of their employee manual, while others use a secure intranet for displaying this information. No matter where it is housed, employees need to be educated on the code of conduct and refer to it often, starting on the first day on the job.
- Business Law I Essentials. OpenStax. https://openstax.org/books/business-law-i-essentials/pages/1-introduction