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Research Triangle Business Advisors

December 2013 Newsletter


When we hear “Management Code of Conduct” we tend to think about things like support of company objectives, reliability, responsibility, confidentiality and other similar behaviors.  However, there is another form of code of conduct that is seldom talked about.  This is the code of conduct among managers and between managers and employees. This month I’d like to talk about this second type of manager’s code of conduct.

                             Happy New Year everyone...


Bob De Contreras





Primary Items of the Code

 1.   Never be a Transparent Manager

Transparent managers are the ones who do not take responsibility for their decisions and actions. They blame other managers. Their most common transparent action is an attitude and saying things to employees like: “…my manager told me we have to do it…” Or, “It’s not my decision – I was told we have to do it…” Managers must support their managers and the company by taking responsibility for ALL the directions, changes and directives they initiate. When managers are transparent (blame another manager) it creates morale issues and undermines the company management structure and control. And, that almost always leads to lost revenues or profits.

 2.   Always Support Management Directives in Public

Managers are independent people and they may not always agree with the decisions or directions of managers above them in the organization.  However, it’s never okay to publicly disagree with management directives that have been handed down. Managers must always fully support these directives as if they were their own. This approach leads to alignment across the organization and increased productivity. If a manager is uncomfortable or disagrees with a directive that has been handed down, the manager can always discuss this with higher level management in a private meeting.

 3.   Never Assign Work to a Peer Manager’s Employees

In these times of scarce resources there is always the temptation to ask the resources of another manager to “help you out.” This should always be avoided. If a manager wants the help of another manager’s resources, the manager should ask the manager of the resource for help. Asking for help manager-to-manager is the correct way.  Asking an employee for help without the knowledge of the employee’s manager should never happen, because it leads to morale issues, loss of management control and loss of productivity.

 4.   Never Assign Work to a Subordinate Manager’s employees

Second line managers often think they have dispensation from the requirement to not assign work to another manager’s employees.  Because of this the second line managers are usually the biggest offenders of this management code. Second line managers have responsibility for managing their managers – not their manager’s employees. Violation of this code leads to a significant amount of friction in the organization and a breakdown of communication and control.

 5.   Never Disagree With another Manager in Public

One of the biggest negative impacts on employee morale and productivity is public display of management disagreement. And, the worst type of management disagreement is one where managers are blaming each other for some situation or action. This behavior leads to employees thinking they can disregard management directives because of the dispute. Managers must always agree in public, but it’s okay to disagree or discuss decisions or actions in a private manager-to-manager meeting.

 6.   Never Repeat What’s Said in Confidence

The quickest way to destroy the relationship between a manager and employee is for the manager to break a confidence.  Breaking confidence means publicly sharing something an employee wanted the manager to keep confidential. However, If required for business operations, managers can share confidential information with other affected managers in private.

 7.   Never Disclose the Name of an Informant

When managers are informed by employees of situations needing their attention, sensitive or personal information may be shared with the manager. When this happens the informant usually expects anonymity. Likewise, if another employee is mentioned in the disclosure or discussion, the informant usually assumes that they will not be identified as the person who named the third party. To do so would cause a future lack of trust and morale issues. 

 8.   Avoid Conflict of Interest

A conflict of interest may arise where the interests of an employee interferes or appears to interfere with the interests of the company. To avoid these conflicts, employees [including managers] should be required to advise their manager of any interest or proposed interest that they may have in a customer, supplier, service provider or competitor. In addition, managers should not seek or accept offers of gifts, money or favors which might influence or appear to influence the making of any business decisions. Some companies allow employees to accept gifts but only if the value of the gift does not exceed a small dollar amount – like $25. A conflict of interest leads to future loss of trust and other conflicts in the organization.

Secondary Items of the Code

 These items of the manager’s code of conduct are related to always trusting and supporting employees. The great philosopher Plato was once asked, “How do you teach a person to be trustworthy?” His simple answer was, “Trust him.” The items that follow are ways for a manager to show trust in employees and support them in the workplace.

 1.   Always Complement or Recognize Employees in Public

The best technique a manager can use to motivate employees is to “say thank you.” And, the best way to say thank you is to publicly complement or in any other way recognize the employee.

 2.   Always Correct or Reprimand Employees in Private

There is a saying that, “One aw-shucks takes a thousand atta-boys.” In other words, it will take a thousand public thank yous to overcome one public reprimand.  If this is true, a manager is unfairly punishing an employee by using a public reprimand. It should also go without saying that a public reprimand will quickly destroy trust in the manager and create conflict in the organization.

 3.   Take Responsibility for the “Bad” and Recognize Others for the “Good”

Putting the first two items of this section together leads to another approach managers can use to build trust.  The manager should take personal responsibility for any plan or action that does not go well (or as planned).  And, likewise, give the credit for successes (or things that go well) to the manager’s employees. It’s amazing how effective this approach can be in driving more business success, building employee motivation and increasing employee productivity.

 4.   Always be Fair

We have all heard the stories about “teacher’s pet.” Managers are just people and they make friendships just like the rest of us. The problem is that these friendships can lead to actions that are favoritism or have the appearance of favoritism. And, that looks like “manager’s pet.” The manager must treat all employees equally and fairly. If the manager doesn’t – trust, morale and productivity issues will appear. Managers must treat other employees, customers, suppliers, contractors and members of the public with respect and courtesy in a fair, honest and open manner.

 5.   Always be Ethical

No manager’s code of conduct would be complete without touching on ethics. The topic of ethics is so important that it deserves its own article. So, to be brief and to the point, managers should never do anything that they would not want published on the Internet for all to see.


The code of conduct shown here or one similar to it should be documented and adopted (published) in every business with two or more managers. Companies that embrace this type of management code increase their competitiveness, goal achievement and growth rate.


Cary | Raleigh | Research Triangle Park | Greensboro | North Carolina
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