2018: Why your Company Needs a Code of Conduct Now More Than Ever

With the tumultuous workplace climate expanding in 2018, a Code of Conduct can help your employees conduct themselves in a way that is appropriate and professional for your organization. It helps with decision making on a day-to-day basis and showcases a benchmark on which to judge someone’s performance.

Several years ago one of our new clients, a large professional services firm, called us and asked us to assist them with the enforcement of their Code of Conduct. When we started our discovery we realized two things were present. First, they had an exceptionally written and well-presented Code of Conduct for their workforce. It included all of their expected behaviors:

Respect the individual

Integrity and accountability

Impartiality and objectivity

Compliance will all law and governance for our business

Quality and professionalism

Courtesy, consideration, be prepared, listen first, never attack another member of the team, disruptive or disrespectful behavior could lead to suspension or dismissal. You get it, but one individual didn’t and didn’t care to, these were applicable to everyone else.

Second, they had never trained, enforced, or acknowledged that their code of conduct existed, until … Yes, you guessed it, someone stepped way out of order. The challenge wasn’t just what they had done or how they had, but more importantly, this was a very high ranking and long tenured executive. As we were discussing the infamous “last straw” it became evident that several things had been occurring. This behavior was omnipresent. This individual had always behaved in this manner. No one had ever addressed it. Also, because no one had ever addressed it, the culprit was emboldened to continue to stretch the limits of their actions. There was a wake of former employees who had decided that any organization who would tolerate such behavior, especially from such a senior member of the executive team, did not deserve to retain their expertise or client service. And then the individual came upon their David; someone willing to stand up to Goliath.

Cut to the chase, the client decided to terminate Goliath. For good reason. But all of this should have been corrected years in advance. The number of careers that this individual affected were numerous, the cost of replacement hires outweighed this persons value by a factor of 10X, (yes 1,000%) and the harm to the firm’s reputation was nearly irreparable. Think Jerry Sandusky, Harvey Weinstein, without the strong sexual overtones. You see, although the Me Too movement has brought significant attention to abhorrent behavior, it’s not just sexual in nature. It’s about operating and enforcing high standards of professionalism, integrity, respect and accountability, not just compliance.

We have been seeing more and more of these types of events happen with our clients these days. Individuals who may have tolerated actions and behavior that are completely out of line with their company/organizations Code of Conduct. How do you address it? Consider reinforcing your Code of Conduct. Train all of your supervisors and managers on your expectations and their responsibility to enforce them. And most importantly, support them. There is a place for civility in the workplace. It starts with each of us.

P.S. I am happy to say that no stones were thrown or slingshots exercised, but Goliath was taken down on the plane of the executive suite. Slain by the loss of employment, reputation and significant personal income. It is highly unlikely that this person will ever recover the status, value, or salary that they had with this firm. Sad to say, it was long overdue, and well deserved.


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