Last month, I was meeting with a consultant who I’ve known for a few years over coffee to discuss some change management efforts. Jokingly, he said “I’d buy your coffee for you, but I know that as a state employee you can’t receive any gifts.” I thanked him and said that in public higher education, I was used to paying my own way.
Actually, our employee code of conduct does allow for nominal gifts, which would include an occasional $1.60 cup of coffee. I chose not to disabuse my colleague of his notion by saying that he could indeed spring for a cup of coffee. I thought it more important that he was able to remain confident that any employee within the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities is held to a high standard and avoids conflict of interest at all costs….even $1.60. That incident also made me think how guidelines like our code of conduct really do help instill and maintain public trust.
When our newspapers are full of stories about organizations that break public trust, it’s critically important for leaders to remember that people are watching what you and your employees are doing. Adhering to an employee code of conduct is just another form of good stewardship.