Codes of Ethics

An organization of which I have just become Immediate Past National President is evaluating its Code of Ethics for members.

An organization of which I have just become Immediate Past National President is evaluating its Code of Ethics for members. The Board of Trustees finds itself in the dilemma of having defined a code over the last 14 months, yet realizing that enforcement poses challenges. As code violations are reported, the muscle to actually discipline members needs strengthening. The organization is a fraternal social organization with members who belong because they share a common hobby.
There is no job performance, professional ethic, or safety and security certification involved in being a member.

I started researching codes of ethics (and conduct), ethical standards in organizations, and considerations for developing such codes. As Immediate Past President I serve in a consulting and advisory role, no longer having the day-to-day demands of President. As I devote time and energy to such research, interesting observations arise.

There are four questions for which I sought answers to help with direction on creating and enforcing codes of ethics:
-       What is a code of ethics?
-       Why might such a code be needed for an organization?
-       How does an organization write a code of ethics?
-       How is the code enforced?

I found a resource that answers all of these questions as well as provides a library of actual  codes. The organization is the Center for the Study of Ethics in the Professions (CSEP) at the Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago. Their web site is http://ethics.iit.edu.

The definition given for what is a code of ethics is lengthy, but nets out as:


"Codes of ethics are to be reflections of the morally
permissible standards of conduct which members of a
group make binding upon themselves. These standards of
conduct often reach beyond or delve deeper into
societal morality in order to give guidance to people
within a group on issues that are specific to the
group."


(http://ethics.iit.edu/codes/Writing_A_Code.html -->page 2 of 8)

The answer given to the second question is on-target and speaks directly to the challenges organizations face with a diverse workforce.  "Because different groups are composed of different
people with different purposes having differing means of accomplishing differing ends, priorities specific to one group may be incongruous with those of another group."  (Same source as above.)

We each have our own interpretations of what is "right" and what is considered "proper conduct" for our professions, our relationships, and our lives. In a diverse world our disparate interpretations need shepherding into an organizational interpretation and set of standards that reflect the organization´s values and culture.

The answers to the third and fourth questions, including alternative points of view as to the value of having àCodes of Ethics, are found at the CSEP site Codes of Ethics Online links to articles and the codes library.

The library of organizations´ codes is a quality resource supported by grants from multiple
bricks-and-mortar libraries and library portals. In a single easy-to-view location you have examples of real codes of ethics for specific types of organizations.  One of these should be in line with your organization´s structure and needs, which can serve as a starting point from which to develop (or revise) your own code.  I believe in refining the wheel rather than re-inventing it, where possible.

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