Implicit Conduct Codes

Implicit conduct codes are often modes of behavior that are deducible through context. They make for smoother interactions and help in determining individual instances of appropriateness. These codes help people entering an unfamiliar situation gain some information about how to act. For example, it is generally understood that libraries are meant to be a place in which people act quietly. Explicitly, visitors can be given this information. However, with minimal effort, it can also be deduced that quietness is the norm by entering the physical space. Humans are capable of making situationally appropriate decisions that will keep them in-line with the environment’s implicit conduct codes. But there are more convoluted instances, and particularly these stem from individuals creating their own implicit conduct codes within interpersonal contexts.

When talking to some individuals, it seems there is a particular manner in which they expect to be spoken to. There is an underlying conduct codes that they want you to pick up on. In his book, Them: Adventures with Extremists, Jon Ronson says during one of his encounters with a religious leader, “I realized that people who were in proximity to Dr. Paisley were required to adhere to a protocol that I had no knowledge nor understanding of.” This confusing attachment of unknown yet implied ruling is seen in social contexts and especially appears in workplaces. These fabrications can only really be expected to be found out by testing the relationship, whether purposefully or not. Their existence can emerge instantaneously and provoke reexamining of the situation.

mountains and water photo by Michael Dam

In an advice-driven article by Liz Ryan called “Ten Ways It Hurts You To Do Your Job Too Well”, an individual relates that he began a new job. It was going well at first, and his manager Angie seemed to approve of his work. Several months into the job, his manager asked him for an inventory report during a meeting. Glenn said “I automated most of that report, so I can get you an updated version every day if you want one.” At once, the manager’s attitude changed and “Angie glared at me like I said something horrible.” Regarding the situation, Liz Ryan says that “It’s a sad fact of life that the corporate and institutional worlds were not made for standout employees.” The outstanding employee threatens the baseline of performance and shakes the confidence of the self-conscious manager. But this principle applies on a larger scale. Those who internalize implicit codes of conduct that others are meant to pick up on miss the tonality of human interaction, regardless of the context.

Tempered, implicit conduct codes are reasonable given that there is enough contextual information to detail the expected behaviors of a participant in an interaction. They are also reasonable when they meet certain threshold of cooperation. For example, you cannot have a reasonable set of implicit conduct codes that require subservience of one participant. Holding onto these codes in itself may well signify that one person views themselves with more importance. That’s in the particular scenario and perhaps beyond. It is not sound to demand, especially without explicit saying it, that some people with which you interact must make themselves smaller in your presence. No amount of power or authority makes it reasonable to formulate these deeply internalized codes. Further, when such people who do formulate these codes are met with an unexpected response, it is not reasonable to measure their appropriateness within the situation. This is because appropriateness can only be measured against explicit and contextually-apparent codes of conduct.