Should I draw up a code of conduct for staff? It feels like a bit too much of a hassle, but will it come back to bite me if I don’t?

The simple answer is YES, you should.


It should not be a hassle


And YES, it will come back to bite you big time if you don’t.


Let me address the reasons why.


Having a reference point about how your company, however small, requires its people to act can be very worthwhile.


From a compliance point of view it can mitigate risks to the company by at least setting a standard of behaviour.


It can also be a source for rewards and recognition as well as a means of establishing how you expect people to act:

  • With each other.
  • With customers.
  • With suppliers.
  • With clients.

The term code of conduct is very formal so why not address the issue in terms that your team can relate to?


The word values can be bandied about and that’s great if the company can cope with that.


But some companies are not in that zone and require greater simplicity.


A lot of organisations create the “ABC company way”, which enables people to think of the code of conduct as a definition of “how we are supposed to work around here … the way we work together”.


Recent legislative changes have placed the issue of workplace behaviour and mistreatment (bullying) clearly in focus but it is a sad day when legislative reform creates a resolve to act.


Basic notions of respect are what set us apart as evolved human beings.


The word respect is overdone as the higher order issue is CARE.


If we do not care about others and even ourselves we are very unlikely to respect authority.


If you impose a code of conduct and it is not in keeping with the culture you are attempting to engender it will be rejected quickly as being incompatible.


On the other hand, if you engage the team to set standards and consult its members about what is acceptable you may be pleasantly surprised by what they come up with.


In a mining company where I worked we had a difficult issue with alcohol and our first instinct was to write a policy but we feared a backlash from workers.


Instead we decided to engage with the employees and they came back with an even more stringent standard than we had thought necessary or acceptable.


They were consulted, they were treated as adults and their opinion was sought and respected.


The new policy was not called “drug and alcohol policy”, it was called the “safe work practices guideline” – different emphasis but a clear message.

The employees accepted it because they had authored the guideline and we had word-smithed their great idea.


There is no one solution and it is highly recommended that you use terminology that fits your business.


Recently I spoke with engineers who do massive projects and we discussed the notion of performance management.


When I advised them that they needed to comply with performance reviews on a “delivered in full on time” (DIFOT) basis they all said: “OK, I get that.”


If I had used HR speak they would have glazed over.


Language is powerful, so use language that fits your business but allows you to achieve your goals and make you compliant.

But do not procrastinate.


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