This blog is about the relationship between organizations and the people who work for them and the communities they operate in. And, it’s dedicated to the 100s of millions of people around the world who go to work every day wanting to do a great job.

What makes a good code of conduct?

Virtually every organization of any size has a written code of conduct.  I’d really never thought about them much but, in the course of doing research for two posts for this blog I’ve ended up checking out Rio Tinto’s, British Petroleum’s and the Canadian Forces among others.

I was reminded that a good code of conduct is about more than the content of a written code.  It’s about “the way we do things around here”.   It’s about the behaviours employees see at work every day.  It’s about the institutional stories that are told both formally and informally.

That said, all this often starts with a written code.  So, here are some preliminary thoughts on what I think makes a good code of conduct:

  1. It’s written to help all employees behave in a way that is consistent with the authentic values of the organization and in line with national and international laws and regulations.
  2. It’s written from an employee’s point of view and not just the organization’s.  The Code is about more than maintaining the organization’s reputation.  It’s about employee pride in their organization, their team and their own work.
  3. It’s “virtually universal in … application”.  There’s no guessing about who the code applies to [all executives, managers, non-managers, business partners].  No guessing about when the code applies or doesn’t.  No gray zone.  No exceptions.
  4. It clearly defines acceptable actionable behaviours and operating practices. It is written simply and is easy to understand.  Plain English.  No management speak or legalese.
  5. The number of behaviours are relatively few, easy to remember and act on.  The consequences – both positive and negative – for the institution and the individual are clear.
  6. It includes relevant scenarios and mini-cases that bring the values and the behaviours to life for employees and can be used as the basis for discussion.
  7. It is supported by a process[earlier post]. that ensures employees are introduced to the code of conduct on day-one as part of their orientation to the organization and their work.  There are regular opportunities to discuss the implications of the code in their day-to-day decisions and actions with their immediate supervisor and to ask questions, provide feedback.  There are ways to report suspected violations without fear.

What do you think?  Is this list complete?

Do you have any examples that you think are particularly good?  Why are they good?

When was the last time your executive spent time thinking about the code of conduct and its implications in terms of their day-to-day work?

Tags: , , , , , , ,

1 Comment to What makes a good code of conduct?

  • Thanks for this great blog post – I’m putting this into delicious so I can refer to it the next time a client asks me to develop a social media policy guide – everything applies.



  • Leave a Reply