why do we have a code of ethics
Regardless of whether your organization is legally mandated to have a code (as public companies are), every organization
should have one. A code has value as both an internal guideline and an external statement of corporate values and commitments. A well-written code of conduct clarifies an organization's mission, values and principles, linking them with standards of professional conduct. The code articulates the values the organization wishes to foster in leaders and employees and, in doing so, defines desired behavior. As a result, written codes of conduct or ethics can become benchmarks against which individual and organizational performance can be measured. Additionally, a code is a central guide and reference for employees to support day-to-day decision making. A code encourages discussions of ethics and compliance, empowering employees to handle ethical dilemmas they encounter in everyday work. It can also serve as a valuable reference, helping employees locate relevant documents, services and other resources related to ethics within the organization. Externally, a code serves several important purposes: Compliance : Legislation (i. e. , the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002) requires individuals serving on boards and organizational leaders of public companies to implement codes or clearly explain why they have not. Marketing : A code serves as a public statement of what the company stands for and its commitment to high standards and right conduct. Risk Mitigation : Organizations with codes of ethics, and who follow other defined steps in the U. S. Sentencing Commission's Federal Sentencing Guidelines, can reduce the financial risks associated with government fines for ethical misconduct by demonstrating they have made a "good faith effort" to prevent illegal acts.
For additional information about the benefits of a code, see Creating a Workable Company Code of Ethics pp. 3-4 and 6-9. Do we really need a Code of Ethics? Yes you do! A code of ethics is a set of standards adopted to govern the conduct of a group of people. It s your rule book if you will. Groups such as national medical associations adopt Codes of Ethics that govern members in individual practices across many places of employ, while individual businesses may adopt more specific code of ethics to ensure integrity within the company. Let s put together a Code of Ethics that will work for your company A company s Code of Ethics will generally cover behaviour that, while not illegal, is nevertheless harmful to the company and/or its clients. A good Code of Ethics should include a motivating statement regarding the reason for its existence and the company s purpose. It should also address the consequences of violating the code as well as ways to report violations of the code. Its language should be clear and avoid meaningless phrases, focusing instead on directly communicating expectations. A Code will not be very useful unless it is widely known and followed; it should therefore be referred to frequently, becoming a part of company culture rather than being read once at hiring and disappearing forever into the abys.
Why should you develop a Code of Ethics? The following are several reasons to consider adopting a Code of Ethics for your company. Shows employees you are a responsible company One reason to develop a Code of Ethics for your business is that it communicates to employees that your company is committed to doing business responsibly. New employees know right away your company s standards and expectations. If management adheres strictly to the code of ethics, a culture consistent with the code will grow among employees throughout the company. This kind of company culture creates a kind of positive peer pressure to maintain a high level of work consistent with the values of your company. Shows customers you value integrity Additionally, customers tend to feel reassured by the existence of a Code of Ethics within a company. They feel that the company values its integrity and will operate accordingly when doing business. Third party groups also tend to look more favourably upon organizations that adopt a Code of Ethics, appreciating that some attempt is being made to develop a company culture of responsibility and honesty. Prevents innocent violations of ethics Another reason to maintain a code of ethics is that they address matters that might not occur to employees on their own. While codes don t necessarily touch on matters of illegality, they do address important matters that affect the profitability, integrity and reputation of a business. Having a specific Code of Ethics outlining the specific standards and expectations of your company for your staff will sensitize employees to things that may not have been obvious to them and avoid inadvertent, yet potentially harmful, missteps.
Provides a clear point of reference when enforcing corrective action Lastly, another reason to consider keeping a Code of Ethics as part of your company culture is that such a document will serve as a reference for corrective action or even termination for employees who fail to meet these standards. A widely known code removes anything arbitrary or murky from dealing with an employee who consistently fails to behave in a manner that meets company standards. Even one such employee can potentially cause great harm to a company, but straightforward, objective expectations for employee behaviour provides a solid foundation for catching and addressing this kind of problem. Don t forget keep it simple. When creating your code, get right to the point. Avoid big legal sounding words and use bullet points instead of long winded paragraphs. Remember, you have to address all your employees and they each have their own levels of understanding of such documents. A business, no matter how big or small, can always benefit from having a clear Code of Ethics! A business can always benefit from having a Code of Ethics in place both to avoid potential problems and to address problems when they arise. If you decide to develop one, consider what would motivate and unite your employees in a company culture consistent with the values you want to maintain throughout your organization.
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