If you own, run or manage a business, the conduct of your employees should matter. And yes, while you need to ensure everyone working in your office, warehouse, factory or other workplace behaves in line with legislation and rules, it’s also important to create a work environment where everyone feels respected.

One of the simplest ways to make sure your staff all understand what you expect from them in terms of their conduct is to create a policy that clearly outlines your expectations without ambiguity. 

One way to do this is with a Code of Conduct. Asking your employees to read and sign your Code each year will ensure you are all singing from the same hymn sheet. This helps to remind them of what’s acceptable – and what isn’t. It also means that if things change, new legislation is introduced or something relevant needs to be added, you can do so in timely fashion. Remember, however, a leader leads by example so you also need to follow the Code of Conduct.

There is no place for “do what I say, not do what I do” in a workplace. 

What should be in your Code of Conduct? 

Some details can be specific to your business and industry. However, when it comes to treating colleagues with respect, there are a few core areas you need to cover off. 

Unacceptable behaviour

Your Code of Conduct must be clear on what actions will not be tolerated. Go into detail, it is not enough to say “harassment and bullying will not be tolerated”. This will also be covered off in more detail in your must-have Harassment and Bullying policy.

For example, provide a list of what constitutes harassment and bullying. This might include (but is not limited to): 

  • causing offence
  • abusive behaviour
  • belittling others
  • threatening behaviour
  • physical assault
  • interfering with a colleague’s personal effects
  • any kind of sexual harassment, including verbal and physical. 

Your Code might also include expectations relating to:

  • dress standards
  • other employment
  • talking to the media
  • confidentiality.

Put these details quite high up in your Code of Conduct or Workplace Behaviour Policy. That way everyone it will be front of mind when your employee signs it to confirm he or she read and understood it and will abide by the rules.

Respect in the workplace

While similar to the above, it’s not the same and should not be treated as such. You don’t need to make this a big part of your Code. Simply reinforce the rule that each employee deserves respect and no-one should experience any victimisation what-so-ever.

Also, make it clear that rule is for all levels of staff. No-one in management has the right to act disrespectfully towards a colleague or employee, or vice versa.

In short, make it clear you expect all employees to uphold a professional attitude at all times, regardless of whom they’re working with, or for, or where in the workplace they’re working.

Chain of command

While this is something that’s usually associated with the military, keeping a chain of command works well in an office working environment too. If your workplace has assistants, supervisors, and managers – however, they’re titled –  make it clear that employees must raise any issues with their direct line manager. Alternatively, if it’s a sensitive issue, they can go directly to the HR department, if you have one.

What isn’t acceptable is employees sharing gossip, telling tales and not going through the right channels with a complaint or problem.

Create a respectful working environment

By sharing a Code of Conduct with your employees, there can be no excuses for disrespectful behaviour. It will not only help your HR department but it will also help everyone working for you feel confident you take their well-being seriously.

Note: In the absence of a Code of Conduct policy, dismissing an employee because of ‘unacceptable behaviour’ leaves you open to a successful claim for unfair dismissal because the employee could argue he or she was unaware such behaviour was inappropriate in your workplace.

Employees need to know that their employers understand the need for mutual respect between all staff. If you can show your commitment to running a business where all your team understands what behaviour is acceptable and what isn’t, then you’re sure to be on the right track to attracting the brightest sparks in your industry!

How to create respect in your workplace with a Code of Conduct By Paulette McCormack on 14th Aug 2018