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5 rules to make your code of conduct succeed

Lieke Weterings, Ninja Expert

23 January 2019

In my previous Insight, I wrote about how important it is that your employees know your company’s rules and perceive them as fair and just. I made this sound like an easy task. But how could you accomplish this? Creating a code of conduct is one step. Having employees understand the rules that apply to the company is another one. But how to make sure all your employees perceive these rules as fair and behave according to them?

Actually, the answer to this question is not rocket science. If you want to make sure your employees perceive the rules as fair, you have to involve them in the process of creating these rules! In this Insight, I will explain 5 simple rules to make your code of conduct succeed.


‘I want YOU to set up the rules’

Photograph by Michael B. Freund via Pixabay

Why would you create rules together with your team?

It is well-known that in order for employees to perform well, the climate in which they work should be characterized by ethical behaviour. In other words, it is very important that good behaviour is rewarded in your organization in an appropriate way. Likewise, it is important that inappropriate behaviour is discussed with the employee.

The greater goal of creating rules together, is building trust between employees and their manager(s). Employees’ belief of having fair rules at their job couldn’t be stronger than when they created these rules themselves. Just imagine creating unfair rules for your own team. Nobody would shoot themselves in the foot like that!


“By involving employees in the process of creating rules, they become more engaged, understand manager’s decisions and become rule guards”

There are multiple reasons for this. First of all, by involving employees in the process of creating rules, they’ll feel more engaged. The employees feel they had an important role in the development. This will make them feel important in the organization.

They’ll feel responsible about the rules and maybe even proud. This leads to even more positive results. For example, if employees have thought about what kind of behaviour is needed to achieve organizational goals, they are more likely to understand manager’s future decisions. They’ll understand why exactly this behaviour is needed in order to achieve goals.

Even more important, there is a bigger chance of employees following the rules if they co-created them. Imagine violating rules you created yourself. That’s like being caught throwing plastic waste on the floor after you gave a masterclass on the importance of our environment. Seems quite embarrassing to me. Employees involved in the process of creating rules will more likely become rule guards, reminding others to the rules as well.

Are your employees guards of the rules?

Photograph by Wikilmages via Pixabay

5 rules to succeed in creating a code of conduct


1: Discuss the organizational goals together

It all starts with setting up a team meeting to discuss the goals you have as organization. What are the goals of your company and what should be done in order to achieve these goals?

Maybe this sounds as redundant to you as a leader, since the organizational goals are probably established a long time ago already. But this first step is of major importance. By discussing the goals together, you make sure that everyone is on the same page. This is the starting point to determine which behaviours contribute to achieving these goals in a positive way.

2: Discuss negative behaviour

The second step is to discuss, together with your team, which behaviours don’t contribute to the goals you want to achieve. By giving employees the chance to come up with this themselves, you increase the likelihood that they’ll understand your future acts as a leader. 

Also, by establishing the right behaviours themselves, all employees are aware of what is expected from them. This will make them feel more responsible to act in a good way.

3: Discuss rewards

If employees are working really hard to achieve the organizational goals, they should be rewarded in an appropriate way. Since it is determined which behaviours contribute to the goals of the company in the previous step, appropriate rewards can be chosen. Make sure your rewards represent the effort employees put in their work, not purely the outcome of their behaviour.

Remember: money is not such a good motivator as many people think! It’s way more important that your employees continue to have fun in their work. What could you do to reward hard work and make it even more fun? Creativity is allowed!

4: Make sure EVERYONE perceives the rules as fair

As humans, we are very social animals. If others agree on a certain topic during a meeting, we are more likely to agree on it as well. This human characteristic is called the ‘Bandwagon effect’. This effect explains why a lot of people vote for a certain candidate in the election because they think he or she is most popular. Explains a lot..

Why am I telling you this? To explain that as leaders, we should never suggest that every member of our team agrees on something. We should make sure everyone agrees on it, by taking the time to ask extensively about this.

5: Be an honest leader

This last rule is the most important one: be an honest leader. Not only during the meeting but also afterwards. Be a role model in behaving appropriately. Reward appropriate (and maybe even punish inappropriate) behaviour in a consistent way. And be transparent in your reasons to behave in a certain way. It’s not about helping others to create rules, or check whether employees behave according to them. It’s about living these rules yourselve.

If you remember these 5 simple rules I gave you, I’m sure your employees will perceive your organizational rules as fair. Let me challenge you to be open, and create a code of conduct together with your team!

Lieke is Ninja Expert at Ninjafy with a deep passion for human behaviour and helping others to make people love their work. Connect with her on LinkedIn

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