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Sample Code of Ethics

Include an Ethics Definition

Use a sample code of ethics or a checklist to build your ethics program. All businesses need an ethics policy. What is ethics? An ethics definition will help you in managing ethics in the workplace.

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If you're thinking of creating ethical guidelines for your business, you'll probably want to review some sample code of ethics online as a starting point.

It's also important to answer (and define) the question of 'what is ethics' at the outset of our thought process.

In other words, you need to have a good ethical understanding and acceptance before building a code or policy that fits your specific business needs.

Ethics Definition:

Generally speaking, as a discipline, ethics is defined as acting in such a way that corresponds or aligns with a specific set of moral values or guidelines. Philosophically speaking, ethics becomes a study of principles and how those principles affect personal and professional conduct.

From the framework of your business, it's important to develop a foundation of values and principles that guides your operations.

Outlining a Sample Code of Ethics

Since a code of ethics can vary greatly depending on the corporate culture and a business' focus, the best place to start is by having a feel for what might go into your written guidelines. A business code of ethics needs to provide reference to, and guidance on, a business' standing on any or all of the following topics (and other topics not listed here but that are part of your culture or philosophy):

  • Purpose
  • Management and Staff responsibilities
  • Legalities
  • Violation reporting policies
  • Conflict of interest information
  • Rules governing gifts and entertainment
  • Employment of spouses
  • Dating at work
  • Sexual harassment policy
  • Outside employment (side jobs, 'moon lighting', etc.)
  • Discrimination
  • Confidentiality
  • Media inquiries
  • Reporting and communications
  • Corporate compliance
  • Product or service integrity
  • Health and safety
  • Environmental commitment
  • Respectful workplace
  • Fair bidding
  • Purchasing
  • Money handling

Beyond this sample code of ethics checklist, it may also include any governmental regulations that guide the ethics of a particular industry.

Managing Ethics in the Workplace

Once you've developed your corporate code of ethics, there's still the question of managing that document in real life. It's very hard to 'enforce' ethics on individuals, so generally a good manager creates a supportive environment in which ethics can thrive. Developing corporate values is a process. Within that process there are steps to manifesting those values including organization and motivation.

Since a code of ethics doesn't actually create a product or service, it's important to remember that measuring its success can be somewhat subjective. If a company keeps the dialogue open and begins seeing preferred behaviors, then that's a fairly good marker that the overall corporate ethics ideal is becoming reality.

Supporting ethical values also means that policies and procedures have to be in place that not only help staff with fair actions at work, but also deter unfair practices.

The more open and public a company becomes about ethical decisions and repercussions, the more the company will be trusted. Additionally the more employees feel management involves them in the process, the more effective the ethics code becomes.

Finally, in managing ethics in the workplace the human element cannot be forgotten. People are imperfect, even those striving to be as honorable as possible. Mistakes are going to happen. The difference in how a mistake affects corporate image and employee moral depends heavily on how management addresses those errors.

Constructive criticism is an ethical approach, as is providing support for future improvement. Your sample code of ethics needs to include elements to measure and assess performance against the code, and include continuous improvement parameters.

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Hello. I am a professor teaching Human Resources Management. You have an excellent page on writing business value statements entitled your "Value Statement: Develop a Definition of Values in Your Business". I would like to use this page (giving full credit) to teach my students how to write good business value statements for the HR Strategic Plan they are required to prepare. Thank you. Richard C. Brocato, Ph.D. Professor of Management, Maryland, USA

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