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Living and Social Codes of Conduct

How does a code come to life within an organization and how exactly does it help when it is mission-oriented and values-based? Companies still require online training (and code certification) but the limitations of this by itself are being recognized. These limitations can be addressed by more engaging, blended learning approaches to code education and communications. With a blended learning strategy, the emphasis shifts from individual to social learning. Discussions of ethics issues become normalized as managers and employees grapple with gray-area situations encountered in the workplace. In this context, a living code is less the “last word” on correct behavior, and more a resource that promotes frank, honest conversations about what it takes to “walk the walk” when obvious answers aren’t available.
 
When it comes to values and ethical standards, employees take their cue from managers. A strong ethical culture is shaped most effectively by exemplary role models who encourage their teams to share their values and concerns openly (i.e., to practice parrhesia).To foster “tone in the middle” and a culture of speaking out, the best blended learning programs include leader-facilitated sessions that encourage employees to explore the legal and ethical issues raised by a scenario from different perspectives, and to reflect more deeply on their own responsibilities. These case discussions bring the code to life by showing how principles translate into practice. Interestingly, they also reveal how heavily people rely on their intuition and emotions when making ethical decisions, and how heavily influenced they are by leader and group expectations. Living codes are more social than we realize.
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Topics: Code of Conduct

The Essence of a Living Code of Conduct

We believe there is significant potential for purpose and values (or principles), as opposed to rules, to play a much greater role in the way that organizations understand, define, and influence their cultures, especially with regard to the way that people behave. A code that is mission-oriented and values-based, while providing an appropriate perspective on rules-based requirements, has a much greater chance of enabling employees to understand the why as well as the what of their actions. This gives them better insights into the bigger picture, helping them to appreciate the wider ramifications of their individual actions for better or worse.
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Topics: Code of Conduct

The Majority of Codes of Conduct: Too Dense to Convey Meaning

Virtually all major corporations and many smaller ones have adopted codes of conduct of some description. However, it would appear that a large majority still view this as a defensive shield—whether satisfying the requirements of the Federal Sentencing Guidelines for Organizations, the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, stock exchange listing requirements, or other mandates. Consequently, many codes remain legalistic in content and tone, without meaningful connection to corporate purpose, values, and culture. Often, they are monochrome documents with dense blocks of text, and few (if any) images or other supporting content. Not surprisingly, codes exhibiting these lagging practices are rarely used or understood. From a communications perspective, they are dead on arrival.
 
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Topics: Code of Conduct

Bring Your Code of Conduct to Life: Mission and Values Statements

Given the potential value of mission and values statements, it’s worth reflecting on the difference between those that are living and those that are moribund or even dead. Effective MV statements speak to multiple stakeholder audiences and strike the right balance between affirmation and aspiration. Employees recognize themselves and the company in thoughtful MV statements; the language rings true and evokes feelings of pride. At the same time, good MV statements express the organization’s hopes and aspirations in ways that inspire not only the workforce but other stakeholder groups as well. What matters most is authenticity. Anyone who visits a Zappos facility, for example, can see within minutes how the company’s “WOW” philosophy and “family core values” come to life. What’s on the website jibes with what’s happening onsite.
 
Unfortunately, MV statements often end up a dead letter, and can do serious damage on their way to the graveyard. The most common cause of death is a mismatch between rhetoric and reality. When leaders say one thing and then do another, the MV language doesn’t just get ignored by employees, it saps their morale. Rather than serving as living documents, these MV statements are moribund representations of a former state—or perhaps one that only ever existed in the minds of the authors.
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Topics: Code of Conduct

Bring Your Code of Conduct to Life: An LRN Whitepaper

How often do companies aspire to mediocrity? How many define their vision and mission in terms of doing enough to get by, to stay out of trouble, and survive until the next quarter? It’s not a common aspiration, especially when technology-enabled transparency and global interdependencies connect behavior, trust, and reputation more surely than ever before; when companies face unprecedented scrutiny from regulators, investors, consumers, and others in relation to the how as well as the how much of their performance.
 
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Topics: Code of Conduct

A Code of Conduct for the Supreme Court?

Recently, Chief Justice John G. Roberts told a group of Democratic senators that a Code of Conduct governing the actions of other federal judges would not be adopted by the Supreme Court.

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Topics: Code of Conduct