When we talk to managers about agreeing a code of conduct on behaviour in their teams, the reply is often “isn’t it just common sense? Doesn’t everyone know how to behave at work?”
The answer is that unfortunately no matter how obvious you think the definition of appropriate behaviour is, people do have differing interpretations.
David Brailsford, coach of Team Sky – the British cycling team - has just introduced a Code of Conduct for the team. Rocked by the Lance Armstrong saga, he has identified that it is not enough to leave standards of behaviour and conduct to chance. And quite rightly, he is not just going to draw the code up himself and impose it on the team. He will be discussing standards with each team member and incorporating their input, in order that it is a shared understanding across the team. We would also advocate that if there have been problems of misconduct in the team in the past, which have sparked the need for clearer guidance, it is important to focus on the future and how people should behave going forwards, rather than dwell on what has already gone. See this as a chance to start with a clean slate, if you like.
There are two key points we can take from Team Sky’s approach…
- If you don’t currently have a code of conduct around appropriate behaviour at work, but see the value of drawing one up, use team meetings to identify and agree the standards with everyone – you will have far more buy in that way
- If you do have a code of conduct or policy in this area, check if people really understand it. Do they see how it relates to their day to day work? Holding a team discussion or one to one meetings with everyone and asking for their examples of appropriate and inappropriate behaviour can be a really effective way to clarify understanding. Giving them a chance to ask questions will help that clarity too and mean they are far more likely to display the behaviours discussed.
With the season of office parties and client entertainment almost upon us, it is an ideal time to review your Behaviour at Work policies and ensure people really understand what they mean in practice. Investing a bit of time talking to people now can save a whole lot of headaches later.