Two important characteristics of conduct are behavior and attitude. A code of conduct uses these characteristics as criteria for promoting a company or organization’s values and mission. While creating a code of conduct is important in establishing ground rules and boundaries, to be effective it must reach the hands of all organization members. Distributing a code of conduct form and requiring a signature as agreement to abide by the code is an important step in developing a sense of trust and cooperation within an organization.
Write an introduction. The code of conduct form is one of the first documents a new employee or team member will review. A brief introduction written in letter-style and signed by the owner or chief executive officer can work to set the stage for establishing ground rules in the spirit of shared responsibility and cooperation.
Include a copy of the organization mission statement. By reviewing stated goals and values prior to examining standards of conduct, the reader will be in a better position to put the “why” behind each standard. Understanding “why” is a necessary step toward a commitment to ethical and responsible behavior.
Set out code of conduct standards. When establishing code of conduct standards, include those topics that reflect your values. Structure and leadership roles, acceptable versus unacceptable behavior, consequences for unacceptable behavior, resources available for training, and, optionally, a reward system for maintaining these standards are common in a code of conduct. Also, include standards for things that may be unique to your organization.
According to the Ethics Resource Center, a code of conduct will be more effective when writing takes on a less formal approach.
Write in a clear, concise, and easy-to-read style. The more formal the writing style, the more judgmental the code will sound. Writing that focuses on values, rather than straightforward fact, will bring heart to your code.
Use common words instead of technical phrases. Make your words easy for a newcomer to the organization to understand. Using an active rather than passive voice in your code will help to express your ideals in a clearer and more interesting fashion.
Use examples whenever possible, and especially for topics that are hard to understand in the abstract. Examples help readers make sense out of abstract thoughts.
Leave a space for the reader to sign and date. Leave another space for a representative from your organization to acknowledge receipt.
Review with an attorney or other legal expert to ensure it correctly addresses legal issues. This is especially important for issues relating to sexual harassment.
Distribute the code of conduct, collect signatures, copy the forms, and file them. Both the member and organization should have a copy of the signed code of conduct agreement. If you make a copy, give the original to the member and keep the copy for yourself. An alternative is to include two copies and have the member sign both. This way, both parties have access to an original document.
Try to keep standards as simple as possible. Five pages is too many.
Although federal laws regarding sexual harassment apply to all, your state may have additional laws. Check with a lawyer.
- Try to keep standards as simple as possible. Five pages is too many.
- Although federal laws regarding sexual harassment apply to all, your state may have additional laws. Check with a lawyer.
Based in Green Bay, Wisc., Jackie Lohrey has been writing professionally since 2009. In addition to writing web content and training manuals for small business clients and nonprofit organizations, including ERA Realtors and the Bay Area Humane Society, Lohrey also works as a finance data analyst for a global business outsourcing company.