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Codes of conduct: Are they worth the paper they are written on?

posted on 09.03.2020, 00:00 by Xiaoyan LiangXiaoyan Liang, P Holland
The concept of an organisational code of conduct is often seen as part of the passive policies that organisations generate, the effectiveness of which in guiding ethical decision-making inside the organisation has been questioned (e.g. Adams, Tashchian, & Shore, 2001; Farrell, Cobbin, & Farrell, 2002). However, as high profile cases explored in this chapter identify, the value placed on code of conduct in terms of its content development and implementation can send a clear message about the culture, governance and ethical values to stakeholders both inside and outside the organisation. It also illustrates in this era of prevalent social media use and 24/7 news, the important role codes of conduct play in helping organisations navigate through high-impact issues and incidents in the public domain. In particular, codes of conduct provide a frame of reference to manage the issues in a way that is perceived to be fair and equitable to all stakeholders. It can also illustrate in ‘moments of truth’ whether they are merely human resources (HR) rhetoric, which is conveniently ignored or a key anchor around which to make decisions in turbulent times. Through a series of case studies, we analyse the effectiveness of codes of conduct in three different organisations in what could be described as the good, the bad and the ugly of decision-making by management in terms of their code content and management decisions’ adherence to their codes.



Holland P

Parent Title

Contemporary HRM issues in the 21st Century

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Emerald Group Publishing

Place of Publication

Bingley, UK

Open Access


External Author Affiliations

Swinburne University of Technology

Era Eligible


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