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Foundational Values for a Code of Conduct

We all face ethical choices in our daily lives. For example, you might have to decide whether to accept a gift from a colleague or client. Or you might have to confront a friend or family member about behavior that concerns you. When making ethical choices, it helps if you’re able to refer to a code of conduct. And this code of conduct needs to be based on a clear value system.

A code of conduct is a document that clearly describes the ethical principles of a person or organization. It provides guidance for behaving in accordance with those principles.

A code of conduct enables you to resist temptation, such as charging a client a little extra or writing off a lunch with friends as a business expense. It also helps to prevent unethical conduct that could result in a loss of trust, a damaged reputation, unemployment, or even legal prosecution.

And finally, a code of conduct helps to guard against situational ethics when factors such as authority, peer pressure, and emotions may influence your decision-making. You always need to act ethically, even when under duress.

Codes of conduct are useful in a number of contexts and for a variety of ends. There are personal and organizational codes of conduct, each coming with different aims and requirements.

Personal code of conduct

Individuals may have a personal code of conduct that guides them through everyday decision-making. As an employee, an organization’s code would override any personal codes in areas where the codes conflict. In the absence of an external code of conduct to follow, each employee should have some type of code that helps them in day-to-day ethical decisions.

Organizational code of conduct

Organizational codes of conduct are designed to influence the behavior of employees in specific ethical situations such as conflicts of interest and the acceptance of gifts. At a minimum, the organizational code of conduct must be specific to the ethical issues employees in the organization may confront.