Creating a Code of Conduct Policy

The words “code of conduct” may make you think you’re already in trouble. However, a company’s code of conduct is ultimately just a policy that details responsibilities, social norms, and other rules employees should follow in their interactions with others and toward the organization as a whole. Simply put, it lets employees know what you expect from them, which should help create a more harmonious workplace.

A code of conduct is not only beneficial in terms of managing employee behavior, but it can also help establish your company’s culture and core values. Let’s get to it.

Key points to include

First it’s important to note that, if “code of conduct” is a bit too stiff for your company’s culture, consider alternatives like What We Expect, Standards of Behavior, Behavioral Expectations, etc. Regardless of the policy’s name, it should be written in a way that implies you’ve got everyone’s best interest at heart — not that you’re just looking for reasons to discipline employees.

You’ll want to cover these general topics:

  • To whom the policy applies — all employees, regardless of rank, classification, and/or status; vendors; clients
  • The extent to which the policy applies — during work hours only, at work functions, in public places, on social media
  • Respect in the workplace — nod to policies related to harassment, discrimination, equal employment opportunity, conflict resolution
  • Professionalism and ethics — acknowledge policies related to conflicts of interest, dress code, drugs and alcohol
  • Compliance with the law — reference established policies related to issues of legality, like theft, proper use of the internet, confidentiality, intellectual property
  • Disciplinary measures — what will happen if the code is violated

Why it matters

Your company’s code of conduct is important because it establishes your expectations regarding employee behavior toward peers, managers, and the overall organization.

To ensure that your code of conduct seems like a helpful resource, START by telling your employees why it exists. You want their buy-in from the first sentence.

Your policy might start with something like this:

We want you to have success here, and a big part of that is making our expectations clear. Our code of conduct outlines what we need from you in order to create a respectful and professional atmosphere. It’s important that our employees act with integrity and in accordance with these guidelines.

What’s trending

As of April 2022, there are more job openings than there are employees to fill them, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Since employees can easily seek other opportunities, employers need to bring their A-game. Generally speaking, the more laissez-faire the employer, the better the chance of acquiring and retaining talent.

When developing your code of conduct, try not to overreach. It’s one thing to emphasize getting work done properly and with integrity — but if you’re making rules that impact personal freedom and/or time outside of work, be careful.

Additional notes

Link to relevant handbook policies, such as:

While you’re perfecting your handbook, check out some other Blissbook content focused on policy creation:

Drew Dotson

Drew Dotson

Drew enjoys eating cheese, cuddling with dogs, doing puzzles, and watching sports. She is passionate about raising awareness (and funds) for cystic fibrosis. Can't get enough info about Drew Dotson?

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