Most companies maintain an employees’ code of conduct, whether informally communicated or officially written down and posted. While employees’ codes of conduct will vary from company to company, there are common guidelines there can help create a safe, productive workplace.
An employees’ code of conduct standardizes expectations for behavior and performance and encourages positive effort, engagement and professional pride. When it is properly enforced, employees learn what behaviors have been determined acceptable for the company, and can adjust their actions accordingly.
By standardizing expectations for ethical work, cooperative teamwork and individual representation, the code of conduct helps the workplace become professionalized.
Employee conduct codes commonly outline expectations for professional performance. This may include expectations of productivity and punctuality. Conduct codes also set guidelines for ethical behavior, including honesty, loyalty and following the law.
An employees’ code of conduct may also describe how employees should interact with clients, customers, competitors and each other. This may include guidelines about courtesy, harassment, dating rules, gifts, contracting for independent work or discussing company matters within or outside the workplace.
Employee conduct guidelines may also describe expectations for professional behavior, including dress code, language choice, alcohol consumption at business lunches or personal phone calls at work.
Conduct codes may also stipulate appropriates uses of company property, including cars, office equipment or supplies, mailing lists and professional contacts.
No matter how beautifully worded, no employees’ code of conduct will serve its purpose if employees aren’t familiar with its content. Employees should be introduced to the conduct code upon hiring, and it should be prominently posted.
An employees’ code of conduct must also be upheld by upper management. Discrepancies between behavior expectations will be noted and resented by employees, eventually weakening the code’s influence. For example, a vice president who frequently arrives late to work will weaken a code that emphasizes punctually if the vice president's behavior is tolerated.
The employees’ conduct code should be updated to reflect changing workplace challenges. If, for example, each employee receives a company cell phone, the conduct code should be updated to include guidelines on how the phone may be used.
The employees’ code of conduct loses strength if guidelines aren’t enforced. Violations of guidelines should be informally or formally acknowledged and discussed. Frequent disregard should lead to a loss of privileges or responsibility.
Periodic staff meetings to discuss recurring problems may also reinforce the conduct code. Also, employees may be positively rewarded with special privileges, increased responsibility or incentives like parking spots, gym memberships or gift certificates if they express outstanding dedication to employee conduct code principles.