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A Short and Sweet Code of Ethics

A group identity is determined by individual actions. By providing some guidelines, these actions can be channeled to help create a healthy internal culture and yield a positive market presence.

Written Mar 26, 2008, read 7953 times since then.
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A Short and Sweet Code of Ethics

  1. Honesty
    1. …the whole truth and only the truth
    2. Own up, don’t cover up


  2. Courtesy
    1. Professionally attired
    2. Hygienically conscious
    3. Politeness
      1. please and thank you
      2. no profanity.
  1. Work
    1. Show up on time
    2. Work a full shift
    3. Strive towards goals
    4. Know your job. Do it well. Be confident.
    5. Cooperate. No man is an island . . .


  2. Improve yourself
    1. Learn more.
    2. Work faster, make fewer errors, cause more applause
    3. Be a better teammate


  3. Respect others and yourself
    1. We are equal
    2. Communicate clearly, briefly and tone-fully
    3. Don’t suffer disrespect


  4. Enjoy the day. Have fun.
    1. Applaud others
    2. Be positive

The above 6 elements described in 92 words is a short and sweet code of ethics. Each point can certainly be elaborated upon, but the 6 elements as stated, provide a sturdy cultural foundation.

When giving direction, shorter is better. Too many instructions are too easily forgotten or perhaps selectively remembered or perhaps skimmed so quickly that nothing is retained. On the other hand, if the instructions are short, perhaps at the very least, they might be read, and if read, perhaps understood. Being read is the great initial hurdle.

If read, what might be remembered? Most of us are familiar with an employee handbook. Was it a good read? Helpful? Memorable in any respect? Typically, these tomes become super-specific in setting forth the do’s and don’ts within a company. They incorporate some ethical elements, but are more often codes of law and reference material to be used in the event of dispute. They are more negative than positive and more lengthy than brief. A valuable tool, wasted.

The handbook can and should be a dynamic tool in creating a culture. But it must be readable, which means short and sweet (aka positive).

There are only 4 negatives in the above 92 words, and they are used to re-enforce a positive directive. A positive statement causes our brains to activate and actually process the data. A negative stops the brain and causes it to ask, “okay, what’s next”? The negative gets registered and is then dispensed with quickly.

“No profanity”. Okay, now what?

Negatives stop action without giving direction.

Positives provide direction.

“Improve yourself”. Immediately the brain moves to, how?

These may seem like very common attributes and yes, many people abide by them regularly, but not everybody and not all the time. These rules are not universal. Let’s not assume that our group contains only those who do abide. Better to assume the reverse. For sure, we have at least one member who is in need and all of us could stand a reminder.

As a hiring manager, during the interview process, could the above code be part of the decision-making process? Would not a new employee appreciate knowing these basic rules of conduct? … that flow in both directions, of course … and to know them before they decide to take the new job. It is far easier to set the rules before the game begins than to set them after it has begun.

As a manager or leader of any group, our selection of players and formation of a team are critical. Whatever our group, the group is each one of our players. The group develops its reputation based upon each individual’s actions. Each member should hold some common truths; some truths to provide direction and definition; a short and sweet code of ethics.

Learn more about the author, Steve Gatter.

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