What is the Difference between Professional Code of Ethics and Professional Code of Conduct?

Companies often develop guidelines and principles to guide behavior in the workplace. Two of the documents used to regulate employees’ behavior are the code of ethics and the code of conduct. Although these words are often used interchangeably, they are and should be different concepts.

Investopedia defines code of ethics as “a guide of principles designed to help professionals conduct business honestly and with integrity.” The ethical code records mission and values of business enterprises and how professionals within the organization should approach problems and ethical issues.

On the other hand, ethical code of conduct is defined as a set of rules that highlight specific actions that comply with the set norms, rules and responsibilities; or the proper practices of individuals in an organization – Wikipedia.

Based on these two definitions, the following differences between a code of ethics and a code of conduct can be identified:

Code of Ethics Code of Conduct
General Rules, Values and Principles Specific Actions/proper practices
General Guidelines for all situations Specific guidelines in certain situations
Example: the value of honesty Example: a rule that expressly prohibits employees from providing misleading information to customers.
More comprehensive Less comprehensive
Guides general decision making Requires little judgment and guides specific actions

Despite the differences above, the code of ethics and code of conduct can be used together to promote good behavior and positive culture in the workplace. They can be combined into one comprehensive document with general values and specific rules to guide behavior in the organization.

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