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How to Create Your Code of Ethics (With Examples)

December 12, 2019

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Most employers have a code of ethics that they require their employees to follow. A code of ethics can help employees maintain a positive company culture and respect others in their workplace. When considering your own professional goals and values, you may want to create a personal code of ethics. In this article, we will explain what a code of ethics is, provide steps for how to create a code of ethics, and give examples.

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What is a code of ethics?

A code of ethics is a set of principles for employees to adhere to when conducting business to comply with company standards. A business code of ethics, usually based on the core values of the business, outlines the company mission statement, how professionals should approach dilemmas and the standards to which they hold their employees. An individual’s code of ethics can include their beliefs, values and background.

While codes of ethics are unique to every individual or organization, they commonly reflect an overall idea of what the general population considers “right” and “wrong” behavior, and many are based upon societal expectations, such as those that teach us not to steal from others.

Having a code of ethics holds a different level of importance for people, but there are clear advantages to creating a personal code of ethics. Since personal beliefs are usually the foundation for an individual’s code of ethics, they may refer to it when they are morally unsure about a situation. Their code of ethics can provide guidance to steer them toward an action or opinion that aligns with what they believe on a fundamental level. A code of ethics reinforces individual values and can provide clarity and strength to follow the path they believe is best.

Related: Core Values: Overview and Examples

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How to create a personal code of ethics

You can follow these steps to create a personal code of ethics:

  1. Determine your purpose for writing a personal code of ethics. Establish your personal reasons for developing this code. You may want to do it for the purpose of guiding your behavior in day-to-day situations, or to serve as inspiration to help you embody the kind of person you want to be. Understanding your individual reasons will help you shape your code of ethics, creating a set of principles tailored to your life, beliefs and needs.

  2. Make a list of your traits. Write down the traits that you strongly believe represent you as a person. These can include personal traits, such as honesty, kindness, integrity or any other characteristic you associate with your behavior. Ask yourself if people close to you would agree with your assessment. By determining your traits, you can create a more definite and honest code of ethics. 

  3. Consider your relationships. Imagine individual relationships you have with others and determine what you would like to change about each one. If you work closely with others, determining the quality of your relationships will allow you to create a statement for how you want to maintain or improve them. 

  4. Create a set of statements to follow. Develop a list of statements that can serve as a guide for what sorts of actions you will take to meet your own expectations. Incorporate your current traits as well as the traits you want to embody going forward in your life. 

  5. Develop guidelines. Create clear guidelines, or rules, that you intend to follow when interacting with other people on a day-to-day basis. You might also include definitive personal statements that can serve to remind you of the importance you place on applying your personal code of ethics to your life.

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Personal code of ethics example

Here is an example of a personal code of ethics that you can use as a guide:

  • I will treat others as I wish to be treated. I will dedicate myself to acting courteously in my day-to-day interactions with others, despite my mood or current life situation. It is important to me to have a positive impact on the people I come into contact with. 

  • I will be honest and transparent in my personal and professional life. While I reserve the right to own personal privacy, I am dedicated to the full disclosure of my professional life. I’m dedicated to not keeping information from a person who deserves access to it, but I recognize the reality of and expect to encounter situations that appear ambiguous. These situations will remind me to revisit my morals to determine whether withholding information would be in breach of my own code of ethics. 

  • I will always put forth my best effort, and I will maintain a healthy work-life balance. My effort is not always necessarily about the end result, but about my adherence to my own standards in achieving them. I am dedicated to equally prioritizing my work and home lives when deciding how to spend my time and efforts. 

  • I am dedicated to continually improving myself. It’s important for me to reach toward virtuosity every day. I believe that living in accordance to my virtues will encourage me to be the ethical person I want to be. 

  • I will keep my promises and honor my commitments. This includes promises to myself as well as my friends and family, and my professional life also deserves my commitment to integrity. During times when my obligations to myself, my job and society conflict with each other, I will refer to my moral compass to evaluate my commitments on a case-by-case basis. 

  • I will remain accountable for my shortcomings or mistakes. I will hold myself accountable for any action that I am morally responsible for. To avoid situations in which I may be required to perform such actions, I will strive for as much autonomy as possible in my personal and professional lives. Accepting accountability if I cause any sort of harm includes righting unintentional wrongs.

  • I will always uphold my beliefs. To maintain the expectation of others to exhibit confidence in me and respect my beliefs, I must maintain and embody my own beliefs. It may be difficult to perform unpopular actions, as they may not produce the most desirable outcomes for me, but my decisions will be made based upon my own virtues and self-imposed rules rather than fear of consequences.

  • I appreciate my life and will be grateful for it every day. I recognize my advantages in comparison to others who may be less fortunate, and I will remain thankful for my life, and try to contribute to the improvement of my community through service and donations when possible.

I fully embrace my core values and will hold myself responsible for continuing to embody these values in my personal and professional lives. I will remain stringent in continuously improving myself and updating my values as my life evolves and am dedicated to making my family and friends proud of the person I am. I will also support my loved ones as well as my colleagues in their own journeys for self-improvement. The personal code of ethics I have devised for myself will guide me to resolve any ethical dilemmas I encounter. 

Related:Setting Goals to Improve Your Career

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Professional code of ethics example

It can be helpful to review a company code of ethics to see how it relates to a personal code of ethics:

  • Be respectful. Although opinions may differ, it is important to remain civil and respectful. Work together to foster a productive environment where everyone is allowed to have an opinion without repercussions.

  • Be inclusive. We are welcoming of people from all backgrounds on our team, including members of any race, ethnicity, culture, class, orientation, education, age, size, family status, political or religious beliefs and mental and physical ability.

  • Be considerate. Treat others how you would like to be treated in the workplace. Each person on this team is important and essential, and each person’s decisions and actions affect our outcomes and morale. 

  • Be professional. Conducting yourself professionally includes being kind to others. Maintain professional interactions when communicating with others at all times. 

Our team believes in strength in diversity. Every person has a different perspective and valuable input to offer, whether it’s solving a problem or contributing new ideas. Not understanding someone’s perspective does not mean that their view is incorrect. Remember to keep the focus on creative resolutions and continuous learning.

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