Why You Should Get to Know Your Organization’s Code of Conduct
In any group situation, it’s essential that everyone understands what constitutes appropriate and unacceptable behavior. In the workplace, a code of conduct, also referred to as a code of ethics, is the document that serves as the blueprint for comportment that every member of the organization is expected to follow.
Some companies provide code of conduct training as part of the new-hire orientation process. Organizations that are sincerely committed to establishing an ethical culture also make ongoing code training a requirement for everyone, from the senior level managers down to the rank-and-file employees.
How Does a Code of Conduct Benefit Employees?
Some view a code of conduct as nothing more than a legal document designed to protect the organization against workers who commit illicit acts. Many companies require employees to sign a written statement acknowledging they understand the code and agree to abide by its contents.
In truth, a code of conduct also serves the best interests of the employees. Here’s how a well-crafted code can benefit you:
- Emphasizes the core values: Most organizations have created a mission or values statement that identifies its core beliefs. You’ll typically see terms such as “trust,” “integrity” and “honesty” listed throughout these statements. A code of conduct provides additional insight into the behaviors that will help the organization adhere to these values. By knowing and following the code, you’ll also be helping the organization fulfill its mission, which makes it a better place for everyone to work.
- Aids in ethical decision making: You might find yourself in a situation where you’re not sure if a decision you’re about to make is right from an ethical perspective. By referring to the code, you can often find guidance that will steer you in the appropriate direction – you’ll have a sound basis for the actions you take, which can protect you if the outcome doesn’t meet your (or the organization’s) expectations.
- Promotes career growth: By adhering to the code, you’re more likely to avoid engaging in behaviors that could be detrimental to your career. You’ll also make yourself stand out as someone who keeps the interests of the organization at the forefront, which can prove invaluable when pursuing advancement opportunities.
- Fosters collaboration and teamwork: Most work areas include functions that require employees to work together to complete projects or meet objectives. By following your code, you’ll be helping to create a collaborative culture where colleagues trust each other and offer a helping hand when it’s needed. Besides helping to increase your department’s productivity, this teamwork approach makes it more enjoyable to come to work every day.
- Helps you avoid “accidental” violations: It’s possible to commit an ethical breach or engage in inappropriate behavior without being aware of it. For instance, an action that may have been perfectly acceptable at a previous employer may be frowned upon when you move to a new organization. By getting to know your code, you’ll avoid these unintended missteps that could land you in hot water or even put the company at risk.
- You’ll know what’s expected of you: You may have been in a work environment where it’s not clear how you should behave in specific situations. A code of conduct helps to eliminate the “gray areas” by spelling out the organization’s perspective regarding these ambiguous circumstances.
- Understanding that actions have consequences: While the code of conduct may not list the specific penalties for committing ethical or compliance-related violations (there may be more detailed written policies and procedures that outline the punitive measures), it will make clear that certain actions won’t be tolerated – and that the consequences may be severe. This can deter others from acting inappropriately toward you or your colleagues.
- Knowing what to do when there’s a problem: If you witness or are the victim of inappropriate behavior, a code of conduct typically lists the steps you should take to report the issue – whether it’s notifying a supervisor or HR representative or contacting the reporting hotline. You won’t feel like there’s nowhere to turn or that you have no choice but to allow the misconduct to continue unabated.
- Committing to self-improvement: Most of us want to become better employees – and better people. By keeping your organization’s code of conduct in mind as you complete your daily work tasks and engage with colleagues and customers, you’ll also be developing an ethical mindset that will benefit you in your professional and personal life.
The next time you have a free moment at work, pull out the code of conduct and refresh yourself on its contents. It might change the way you approach your job and interact with your coworkers – for the better.