This article was co-authored by Dawn Smith-Camacho. Dawn Smith-Camacho is the Owner of Whole Life Solutions, a business in which Dawn provides professional speaking on effective decision-making and navigating major changes for entrepreneurs and employees. She also supports individual coaching clients by identifying their core values, managing time, prioritizing, and honing in on their ideal path. Her clients include Vistage, UNICEF, the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD), the Wedding Industry Professionals Association (WIPA), NACE, and Oracle.
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Developing a code of ethics is an effective way to establish guidelines for how to act, whether as an individual or within a group or organization. You might want to develop one for yourself or a group you're involved in, or you might be trying to set down some rules in your company. In any case, developing a code of ethics begins with identifying values and deciding how you and others should respond in certain situations. From there, you can draft the code and move on to the most important part, putting the code into practice by living and working according to it.
Part 1Part 1 of 3:Identifying Key Values and Ethics Download Article
- 1List your personal values. If you are in charge of the company or leading the creation of the code of ethics, you should consider your personal values. Factor in what you value in life as an employee, as a boss, and as a person. These values can then inform your company's code of ethics.XResearch source
- You may ask yourself, "What do I believe in?" "How would I like to behave around others?" "How would I like to treat others?" "How would I like others to be treated?"
- Common personal values may be "reliability," "dependability," loyalty," and "honesty."
- You may also think about how you have treated others in the past. Consider how you have dealt with moral dilemmas or ethical issues. Do you feel you acted correctly? If so, you may use this as a model for the code of ethics.
- If you're not sure what your values are, take 7 days and jot down every single moment that lifts you up or makes you feel excited, engaged, or lit up. Then, look for patterns in the list that can give you insight into what's important to you.XExpert SourceDawn Smith-Camacho
Career & Life CoachExpert Interview. 13 May 2020.
- 2Discuss the company's values. Ask a team of your employees to list the company's values. Have the team to look back at any ethical issues or moral dilemmas the company dealt with in the past. Consider how the company responded to these issues and what could have been done better or be improved.XResearch source
- Have the team consider, "How would the company like to treat ethical issues?" "How would the company like to treat employees and clients?" "What does the company believe in and how does this inform their values?"
- If the company already has a mission statement, you may use it to inform the company's values. For example, the company's mission statement might be, "We serve the needs of our customers and our employees with integrity and honesty." Often, a company's mission statement will say a lot about what the company values and how it approaches ethics.
- 3Review codes of ethics written by others. To help you identify your values and ethics, look at examples of code of ethics from other people and other companies. Contact other companies in your field and ask them for a copy of their code of ethics.
- Don't be afraid to use language from other code of ethics. Use it as a guide or reference and make it your own.
- If you use content from other code of ethics, make sure you cite them, especially if you are quoting the content word for word.
Part 2Part 2 of 3:Drafting the Code of Ethics Download Article
- 1Give the code of ethics a memorable title. Avoid generic titles like "Code of Ethics" or "Code of Values." Go for a thematic title that is memorable and specific.XResearch source
- For example, you may choose a title like "The Way We Conduct Ourselves at AB Communications" or "Living Our Values at AB Communications."
- 2Include a table of contents. Format the code of ethics so it is easy to get from section to section. Put the titles of each section in the table of contents.XResearch source
- For example, you may have a section title like, "Introduction" or "Prologue." You may also have a section title like "Core Values" or "Our Living Values."
- 3Have an introduction or prologue. Start the code of ethics with an introduction or prologue that explains why the code is important and what the purpose of the code is. Address what the code is meant to accomplish. Note the scope of the code and who it applies to.XResearch source
- Note in the introduction whether the code of ethics is mandatory for all employees. You should also note if the code is a regulatory document that is supposed to inform and manage the employees in ethical situations.
- 4List the core values. Make a list of the core values and provide a brief summary of what the value means to the company. There is no set number of values needed for a code of ethics. You may have four to eight core values or one to five core values.XResearch source
- For example, you may have a core value like "Professional integrity: We believe every employee should demonstrate integrity in ethical situations."
- 5Discuss the importance of these values. You can also mention why the core values are important, focusing on each value listed. Write one to two sentences about why you included in each value and how it connects to your company as a whole.XResearch source
- For example, you may note, "Professional integrity is important to us as a company because we believe employees should act with consideration for others."
- 6End with resources for employees. Most codes of ethics have an end section that lists resources for employees that they can refer to if they have an ethical dilemma or questions about ethics. You may list resources like a Human Resources representative or an ethics hotline.XResearch source
Part 3Part 3 of 3:Implementing the Code of Ethics Download Article
- 1Ask employees to sign the code of ethics. Implementing the code of ethics is an important next step. Have your employees sign a printed copy of the code of ethics to show that they have read and acknowledged it.XResearch source
- You can also keep the physical copy of the code of ethics somewhere it can easily be seen, such as in the staff room or the employee lounge.
- 2Use incentives to get employees to use the code of ethics. Make a system where points are given every time the code of ethics is accessed by employees. Create a recognition program tied to employee use of the code of ethics. Reward employees who use the code of ethics regularly with prizes or bonuses.
- You can also make a penalty system where employees are given mild reprimands for not using the code of ethics when they should have.
- 3Refer to the code of ethics regularly. Treat the code of ethics like a living document that you look at often and discuss. Refer to it once a week or once a month, even if you do not have any ethical issues. This will keep it relevant to how you conduct yourself on a day-to-day basis.XResearch source
- You can also make a point to revisit the code of ethics once a year and review it. Add or revise sections of it as you see fit. Make sure it feels relevant and up to date so it gets used on a regular basis.
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- QuestionHow can I figure out what values are important?Dawn Smith-CamachoDawn Smith-Camacho is the Owner of Whole Life Solutions, a business in which Dawn provides professional speaking on effective decision-making and navigating major changes for entrepreneurs and employees. She also supports individual coaching clients by identifying their core values, managing time, prioritizing, and honing in on their ideal path. Her clients include Vistage, UNICEF, the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD), the Wedding Industry Professionals Association (WIPA), NACE, and Oracle.
Career & Life CoachCareer & Life CoachExpert AnswerIf you don't know what your values are, take 7 days and write down everything that lifts you up or makes you feel excited, lighter, engaged, or lit up. It could be anything from seeing your neighbor's dog, getting a meaningful compliment, or enjoying a food you've never had before. By the end of the week, you'll start to notice patterns, like "I'm consistently happier when I'm doing something hands-on" or "I'm usually happier when I'm around people"
- ↑Dawn Smith-Camacho. Career & Life Coach. Expert Interview. 13 May 2020.
About This Article
Developing a code of ethics is a great way to establish guidelines for how to act as an organization. To get an idea of your company’s core values, ask a team of your employees. You can also look at other company’s codes of ethics to see what kind of values are most important to them. For example, you might value honesty, integrity, and empathy above all. Once you’ve brainstormed your company’s values, write them up in a document and explain why each value is important to your company. Then, get each of your employee’s to sign the code of ethics. For more tips, including how to encourage your employees to follow your code of ethics, read on!