A Code of Conduct for Staff & Supervisors

Kate Sheehan’s post on kindness has had some good comments, including this one by Tasha Saecker, Director of the Menasha Public Library:

At our library, we did a code of conduct that every employee had to sign. It was about how we treat one another in the library. Our staff had gotten into the habit of being quite toxic with one another. Refusing to reply when greeted, ignoring staff who worked at lower levels in the hierarchy, making caustic remarks both to people’s face and behind their backs, etc.

The code reminded everyone what was expected of them. Professionalism, kindness, respect and care. Now a few years later, there is no need for the code because everyone just naturally follows it. No need to remind either. It’s like working in a different library!

I had to email Tasha and ask about the codes. She sent me both versions – one for staff, one for supervisors – and gave me permission to publish them here. What do you think?

Tasha writes:

As a library director, I think that our internal conduct is just as important as our external conduct, meaning that we have to be kind to one another as library staff just as we are kind to our patrons.  I expect a certain level of professionalism, but also kindness and consideration of one another.  To address this issue in my current library, I created Agreements for our staff and supervisors to sign.  Now, two years later, I would not see a need for them any longer.  The issue has been solved, the culture changed.  Here are our Agreements, inspired by the amazing Pat Wagner.

For staff:

I agree to follow the guidelines below to the best of my ability, understanding that these guidelines are an important part of service to my staff, my customers and my community.


I will be courteous at all times, meaning that I will greet everyone I encounter with a smile, knowing that I am representing the library not only in the way I deal with customers but the way I interact  with my fellow staff members.

Everyone is treated like a peer by everyone else.  Everyone will say good morning, please and thank you to everyone with good will, no matter what their relative position.

Everyone will get information at the same time regardless of his or her position in the library.  Information hoarding is not acceptable.

Everyone has the opportunity to give input and receive feedback on their ideas.  Keeping lines of communication open is a priority.  Ideas and creativity are to be encouraged at all staff levels.

Communication will be my number one goal, so that everyone understands what decisions I am making.

I am expected to learn and grow.  Accepting change and new ideas is a priority in the library.

Gossip about other staff members is not acceptable.  If I have a complaint, I will not talk with other staff members but openly discuss it with my supervisor or the library director.

The library as a whole is my priority, from how the library looks to the community to how customers feel while they are here.  Just as I view other staff as my peers, I will not hesitate to lend a hand where needed.

For supervisors:

I agree to follow the guidelines below to the best of my ability, understanding that these guidelines are an important part of service to my staff, my customers and my community.

I will be courteous at all times, meaning that I will greet everyone I encounter with a smile, knowing that I am representing the library not only in the way I deal with customers but the way I interact  with my fellow staff members.

Everyone is treated like a peer by everyone else.  Everyone will say good morning, please and thank you to everyone with good will, no matter what their relative position.

Everyone will get information at the same time regardless of his or her position in the library.  Information hoarding is not acceptable.  Minutes of staff meetings will be released within 48 hours.

Everyone has the opportunity to give input and receive feedback on their ideas.  Keeping lines of communication open is a priority.  Ideas and creativity are to be encouraged at all staff levels.

As a manager, I will not micromanage, but will allow employees to accomplish goals in their own way.

Communication will be my number one goal, so that everyone on staff understands who makes decisions, how decisions are made and what decisions they can make.

Everyone is expected to learn and grow.  Accepting change and new ideas is a priority in the library.

I will focus on praising each one of my staff at least once a week.

Disagreements with staff will be addressed quickly with an emphasis on keeping staff informed on how the decision was made.

Gossip about other staff members is not acceptable.  If you have a complaint, please do not talk with other staff members but openly discuss it with your supervisor.

The library as a whole is my priority, from how the library looks to the community to how customers feel while they are here.  Just as I view other staff as my peers, I will not hesitate to lend a hand where needed.

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11 Responses to “A Code of Conduct for Staff & Supervisors”

  1. Michael Golrick Says:

    Organizational culture is so important! And as your report from Tasha (who is great, by the way), it is interesting to see it so formally presented.

    I have noted that there was a song which changed my life as a high school senior. It was from Carole King’s Tapestry album. The song was “Beautiful.”

    ‘You’ve got to get up every morning with a smile on your face…”

    It is a good mantra.

  2. sylvie Says:

    I am especially impressed with “Communication will be my number one goal, so that everyone on staff understands who makes decisions, how decisions are made and what decisions they can make.” because it both speaks volumes about caring about human being interactions AND about efficiency and leadership. Well said.

  3. Tasha Says:

    Thanks Michael S. for featuring this! Thanks Michael G. for the compliment! And thanks to Sylvie for reading it just the way it was meant. :)

  4. Lee Says:

    Wow. Simply wow.

    We wonder where all the civility has gone. It’s there. But it’s a very special mirror.

    We can only see ourselves when we reflect it.

  5. Maura Says:

    Thank you for sharing this. I think this speaks volumes of the administration caring about the health and culture of their organization.

    I especially like this line, “The library as a whole is my priority” as this is the way our customers see the library. Patrons don’t see the different departments or service desks like we understand them.

  6. Bohyun Says:

    Thanks for sharing this code of conduct. It seems so amazingly simple and commonsensical. But I am sure putting the code out there for all staff including supervisors and adhering to it would make all the difference!

    I hope more libraries adopt this kind of code of conduct. Courtesy, kindness, and generosity tend to be reciprocated. They are not only ideal virtues but also have tangible benefits such as boosting performance and productivity. There is a good reason for management to establish and promote them.

  7. Ana Says:

    Thanks for sharing this amazing code of conduct. I hope more people can follow it, and understand the importance of keeping all staff at all levels informed, give them the opportunity to contribute ideas, and be confident to communicate.

  8. Library Hat Says:

    [...] Michael Stephens at Tame the Web has posted a inspiring code of conduct which belongs to the Menasha Public library staff. There are two agreements, one for staff and one for supervisors. The agreement is so simple and commonsensical. After all, one of the items in the agreement includes “Everyone will say good morning, please, and thank you to everyone with good will, no matter what their relative position.” Someone may wonder what kind of code this is if it states such an obvious thing. However, kindness and respect begin with small steps and those small steps can have a big impact on the morale of a library staff. [...]

  9. Lorraine Says:

    This is very inspiring to me, thank you Tasha for sharing and Michael for posting.

    BUT – I have a troubling question (at least, it’s troubling me): how do you enforce such a code? If morale and inter-staff communication was so bad as to require this kind of step, you must have had staffers who were unable to follow the code, at least right away.

    Did you write them up? Remind them unofficially? Did people report on each other?

    Like I said, I love the idea – it’s just hard for me to imagine implementing it with negative-attitude staff…

  10. There is No Excuse for Bullies at Work (or Anywhere Else) | Librarian by Day Says:

    [...] think about how you treat others, and how others treat you.  Take some time to read this great Code of Conduct for Staff & Supervisors, every library should have [...]

  11. Laura England-Biggs Says:

    Wow. Awesome. Just found the topic for our next staff meeting. We have wonderful giving people on staff who get sidetracked by things that don’t go as planned.

    The biggest challenge will be taking the problem to the person/people involved and not dragging others into the discussion. If I’m honest, I have to admit that I’m guilty of the behavior from time to time. I’m working to change that – it’s a work in progress…

    We have the potential to be great – with this kind of thinking, we can get there.