Definition – Code of Ethics: “A guide of principles designed to help professionals conduct business honestly and with integrity. A code of ethics document may outline the mission and values of the business or organization, how professionals are supposed to approach problems, the ethical principles based on the organization’s core values and the standards to which the professional will be held.”
Honesty and Ethics. Whew what a topic! Is it just that people aren’t as honest and ethical as they used to be or is it simply that the news we receive about all manner of moral transgressions spreads much more easily than in the past?
It really doesn’t matter because every company regardless of its size or industry should have a corporate Code of Ethics to help deter employee wrongdoing and eliminate the problems that can arise when there is too much uncertainty regarding acceptable and unacceptable management and employee behaviors.
The topic of Ethics is complicated and can make people uncomfortable. Think about Enron, Martha Stewart, Tyco, and Arthur Anderson. The list goes on and people will argue the points from both sides of the fence.
Your Code of Ethics should drive how your management and employees conduct themselves at work and impact the decisions that they make. In the end it is easier to set forth ethical guidelines for your company versus having management and employees not being fully cognizant of what are the right and expected behaviors.
Your Code of Ethics doesn’t have to be lengthy but should include the following sections:
Company Mission Statement
Expectations for management and employee behaviors (ex. conduct such as swearing, harassment, conflicts of interest, etc.)
Acceptance of gifts, entertainment and meals
Privacy, confidentiality and dissemination of insider intellectual property
Personal relationships with other employees, clients or vendors
Having a Code of Ethics can be highly beneficial for your company because it:
Reinforces the values and behaviors that you wish to have executed company wide
Enhances your reputation in the marketplace
Ensures proper treatment of vendors and customers, both external and internal
Fosters teamwork and improved morale
Helps to guarantee productivity and work quality
Minimizes legal problems
I suggest that you develop your own Code of Ethics based on your type of business and corporate culture; then submit the document to your Business Attorney for their review. Once it is finalized, it should be presented to your Senior Managers; they should be responsible to disseminate the document to your employees. To promote the Code of Ethics, a company should have a yearly meeting as a reminder to all management and employees that this is the expected behavior of the Company.
Not sure how to create a Code of Ethics? I have provided some great links below for your convenience.
In the end having a Code of Ethics to communicate the mandated guidelines is a win-win-win for the company, employees and clients. Having everyone on the “same page” eliminates confusion, bringing clarity and restores how to do the right thing!