Posted by: healingtheworkplace | August 2, 2008

Bad Habits in the Workplace? Need a Code of Conduct?

This week I find myself exploring the idea of organizational “codes of conduct”.

The first one I came across was designed to “control” employee behavior. Now the word “control” was not mentioned BUT the implication was there.

The example given was of a checklist of behaviors that employees were to agree to and be held accountable for. Of course there is nothing wrong with this if EVERYONE in the organization is also held to the same standards of behavior.

So I decided to do a bit of research and found quite a lot of variation in workplace codes of conduct.

Take Canada Post for example. Canada Post has a twenty-five page document which describes “standards for fair and ethical conduct” at Canada Post. This document starts with Canada Post’s values and is upfront on “what you can expect from Canada Post” and “what Canada Post can expect from you”.

On the other end of the spectrum is Lulu Lemon Athletica. Lulu has a one page code of conduct which appears to set standards more for the employer than for employees.

Getting back to the first code of conduct that I came across. This one was meant to set standards of behavior for employees ONLY. Organizations that are interested in creating one of these are encouraged to “seek input from all employees” and not to impose something from “the top”.

These are sound recommendations but very difficult to follow ESPECIALLY in LARGE organizations with thousands of employees. How do you seek input from everyone?

Other suggestions for making this idea work are:

  • align behaviors with the organization’s mission and values
  • be specific in how you word the behaviors
  • communicate the reasons for having the code of conduct in the first place
  • update the code of conduct on a regualar basis
  • have new employees agree to and sign the document

What to you think? Does having a code of conduct work? Is it a good idea? Can an organization have a code for employees to follow and not have a code for the organization (owners, board members, senior leaders, etc.)?

We all have bad habits and may not be aware of them. There are also people working in our organizations that are dishonest or unethical.

Is a code of conduct the best way to stamp out these bad/criminal behaviors?

I don’t have the answers.

What I do believe is that it is much easier to have small working groups discuss and agree on standards of behavior. The best example I’ve seen so far is very simple.

At a team or staff meeting or when a group comes together for the first time ask them to think about the BEST group or team that they ever worked with. Then ask them to describe what it was about that experience that made it so memorable.

Capture these experiences on a white board or flip chart paper.

Ask them if that is how they would like to work together and if they agree then this becomes their “code of conduct”…although you don’t need to express it in those terms.

Have a happy and productive week!    Lesley



  1. Not so different than Blog Etiquette! I think it is good to “have” a Code of Conduct – it sets expectations for both sides. It won’t be perfect and it should be revisited and everyone should be held accountable.

  2. […] Bad Habits in the Workplace? Need a Code of Conduct? August 2008 1 comment 3 […]

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