Confusing is the last thing you want your code of ethics to be called. In order to follow and embrace your company’s ethics, your code needs to be clear.
Employees rely on your official code of ethics to determine when they should or shouldn’t report questionable behavior. It also gives your business grounds to take action against unethical employees. If it’s too confusing, you don’t benefit at all.
Even You Don’t Understand It
Sit down and read your code of ethics. Do you understand what it means? If you don’t understand it, neither will your employees. It’s tempting to make your code sound overly professional and complicated. But, at the end of the day, you just need a document that outlines what ethics mean to your business and what you expect from your employees.
Keep it simple and you’ll start noticing a major difference. With clear details, employees can’t get away with saying they didn’t know better.
You Need Lawyers To Decipher It
While some business documents are written more for lawyers than normal people, your code of ethics needs to be written in plain language. Write this as if you were having a conversation with someone. You can consult a lawyer to make sure you’re including all the basics you need, but avoid the legal-speak for this one. All this does is confuse everyone.
Employees Have Questions
It’s fine if employees have questions about your code of ethics, but constant questions mean you have a problem. This means employees have no idea what ethics mean to your business. As such, they’re less likely to report issues. And, unethical employees feel more emboldened to do whatever they want. Since no one really knows what your code means, anything goes, which is not what you want.
If employees keep asking questions, revise your ethics code to answer all their questions. Use their questions as a guide to better understand what your code needs.
It’s Far Too Long
A typical code of ethics shouldn’t look like a book. It’s a part of your employee handbook, so it should be roughly the size of a chapter. Many of the most famous examples of great ethical codes are just a few pages to up to 10 pages long. Notice that these utilize bullet points and make it easy to understand what you should and shouldn’t do without going into lengthy detail.
After all, employees are adults and they already know right from wrong. So, if you list “Be respectful of others,” you shouldn’t have to go into fine details. Simply list a few things, such as zero harassment of any kind. You can then reference your harassment policy for more details.
It’s okay to reference other policies in your employee handbook to provide more details for your code of ethics.
Use Templates To Help Create A Better Code Of Ethics
If you want your code of ethics to be more effective and help make a difference, consider using a template. Workable and Employee Law Handbook offer a few great options. By customizing these to your business, you’ll create a more ethical workplace and ensure employees are more likely to use your ethics hotline to make things better.