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Definition of code of conduct

Every organisation, whether it is a company, a club or a fraternal order, has expectations of how its members should act among each other and with those outside of the organisation. The set of principles that govern these expectations is referred to as a code of conduct. They may me implied or written. Organizations may impose penalties for breaking their codes of conduct.


A code of conduct creates a set of rules for specified circumstances that become a standard for all who participate in the group and represent themselves outside of the group. Corporate sales forces have a code of conduct to be courteous and respectful while seeking new customers. A sports team includes in its code of conduct to not be reckless with alcohol or drugs. Every organisation has its own set of rules that govern how it expects its members to act.

Written or Implied

A code of conduct may be written or implied. Companies may have in their employee hiring packages a code that the employee must agree to as part of the terms of employment. A club at the local high school may have a code of conduct implied as standard moral behaviour. If someone is thought to have breached the code, a meeting may be held to determine if it was outside of the code and what remedy, if any, should take place.


Penalties for breaking a code of conduct vary depending on the organisation. Fraternal orders could ask a person breaking the code of conduct to leave or become suspended for a period of time. This could be an arbitrary penalty or something defined by a group's charter or by-laws. Other organisations, such as companies, may have the right to fire someone who breaks the code of conduct. Professionals such as doctors, lawyers and financial representatives could be held liable if they have been determined to break certain codes of conduct.

Professional Behavior

A code of conduct exists for the express purpose of having individuals demonstrate what the code defines as professional behaviour. People have expectations when they go to the doctor or see a lawyer. When these expectations are not met, people can feel violated or harmed. Often, professional codes of conduct result in legally binding ones that have financial or legal recourse to the person breaking the code.


By creating a code of conduct, those within an organisation have a standard to be met which can set them apart from competitors. Ultimately, a code of conduct builds trust among the members and the community surrounding the organisation.

About the Author

With more than 15 years of professional writing experience, Kimberlee finds it fun to take technical mumbo-jumbo and make it fun! Her first career was in financial services and insurance.

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