Most companies have a Code of Conduct which contains the principles that guide your actions.  It should be viewed as a document that gives each employee a recurring opportunity to pledge to themselves and to each other that they will conduct themselves with the high standards it specifies. 

Once a year you may be asked to declare in writing that you are aware of the code, understand its importance, and are observing all that the Code of Conduct requires.  Before you do this, take an opportunity to reread it and assure yourself that you have been, and will continue to be in compliance.  If you have information about any exceptions you should bring it to the attention of your supervisor.

Below, I have attached three paragraphs from the Code of Conduct for a large company no longer in business, so that there are no confidentialities being compromised.  These three topics are very likely to be in most company’s Code.

Confidential Information

Disclosure of confidential information outside the company, especially to competitors, could be harmful to us. Consequently, confidential information should be maintained in locked files and storage areas, and properly disposed of in accordance with our record retention policy. Also, care should be exercised when discussing confidential information, especially in the presence of the public – in elevators, airplanes, restaurants or even at work in the presence of employees not authorized to have access to such information

Competitive Information

In the ordinary course of business, information is acquired about other companies, including customers, suppliers and competitors. Obtaining this type of information is an ordinary part of the competitive system. However, there are legal and ethical limits on acquiring competitive information. We should not acquire information through improper means, such as corporate espionage, nor should we hire an employee of a competitor to get confidential information or encourage employees of competitors to disclose confidential information about their employer.

Gifts & Entertainment

To avoid even the appearance of a conflict of interest, gifts should not be accepted if they could reasonably be construed to unduly influence our business relationships or create an obligation. Any gift of other than a nominal value (generally less than $75) should be returned to the sender with an explanation that it is against our policy to accept such items.

Even if one or more of these are not in the Code you are subject to, you would be wise to observe their central meaning.    Being known as someone who is honest and circumspect will help people gain respect for you and will burnish your reputation.  Conversely, willful disregard for these practices will come back to haunt you if ever a difficult situation arises, or an accusation is made against you or your company.

Always behave so that these challenging events will not lead people to think less of you. 

We meet many people, often including those we compete against, as we conduct our business.  Each of us should remember that those individuals who are enthusiastic to share “secrets” and confidential information with us, would be equally eager to share any privileged information you may provide to them.  Your friendship with a supplier, distributor or competitor should not extend to trusting them with information that should not be shared outside of your company.

You should always intend to win in the competitive marketplace.  But you must commit to doing it honorably.


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