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Mar 13
2006

Establishing Personal Conduct Standards for Employees on the Job?

Posted by: Steve Marr

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Many organizations establish on-the-job conduct guidelines for their employees, and some companies enforce these standards even when employees are off the job. The key is to determine which guidelines should apply, clearly communicate those guidelines to your staff, and make sure that enforcement is consistent.

In most states, workers have little right to privacy on the job, but check your state and local regulations before enacting a policy. Some business leaders are reluctant to impose standards of morality on their staff. The more important issue is to determine the kind of conduct you expect from your employees on the job, and then ask everyone in the organization to comply. King Solomon wrote, “Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a disgrace to any people” (Proverbs 14:34, NASB). Business leaders have the right, and the obligation, to appropriately control the behavior of their employees on the job.


“Shun foolish controversies,” Paul instructed Titus (Titus 3:9, NASB). Applying Paul’s advice to the task of establishing guidelines, be sure to choose important issues that relate to job performance, productivity, or customer service. One manager made a big deal out of employees snacking at their desks. He forbade the practice, causing dissension among his employees. Granted, he had the right to make that decision, but it was foolish to make it such a big issue. It would have been better if he had simply asked that any messes be cleaned up promptly, or that employees refrain from eating in front of customers in a public area.


Internet abuse is the leading factor leading to dismissal on the job, according to the ePolicy Institute. Twenty-six percent of the companies they surveyed had fired workers for misusing the Internet. Viewing and downloading pornography was the number one problem. Companies have the right to install pornography filters and establish policies forbidding the visiting of “adult” Web sites. An employer has the right and responsibility to forbid access to pornography, gambling, and other such sites. One good reason to prohibit the use of company e-mails for graphic materials, aside from promoting a wholesome workplace atmosphere, is to avoid sexual harassment issues. E-mails that contain graphic “humor” or other objectionable material can and have become the basis for sexual harassment lawsuits.


In addition to restricting Internet access to pornography and gambling, you would be wise to establish a policy limiting or eliminating personal Internet use during work time, which is a costly problem. Whether employees are surfing for pornography, real estate listings, or gardening information, a total of $138 billion per year is wasted in employee time as a result of Internet abuse. Because the problem is so prevalent, wise business leaders establish and enforce reasonable standards. No employee has a right to view or download anything other then business-related information on the job. Again following Paul’s advice to avoid foolish controversies, establish a policy that restricts personal use of the Internet and personal e-mails to non-work hours, or a limited amount of time.


Sending inappropriate e-mails is another key issue. Twenty-five percent of companies have discharged employees for inappropriate or explicit e-mail messages. Recently, the CEO of Boeing was dismissed, not for having an affair with a staff member, but for sending her explicit material via e-mail, in violation of company policy.


Dress codes are often controversial but should be established. Employees who interact directly with customers should be instructed to conform to a dress-code standard. Employees who work in a factory or a warehouse may not need to dress in slacks, but their jeans, shoes, and shirts should be clean and not tattered. Furthermore, employers can and should set standards for neatness, requiring collared shirts, and no jeans or shorts.


Dress-code standards should also prohibit inappropriately tight-fitting clothing, short shorts or skirts, and tee shirts with sexually suggestive wording. One note of caution: If you decide to eliminate shirts that have pictures of Buddha, for example, be aware that the courts have determined that you need to be consistent and not allow any religious statements.


It is also appropriate to manage personal language. For example, you can declare that swearing or any loud, abusive speech will not be tolerated.


“They do not compromise with evil” (Psalm 119:3, NLT). We have a responsibility to ensure that our workplaces are a shining light to those who have accepted Christ, and those who have not.

Steve Marr, Your Christian Business Coach

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