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Code of Conduct

We are ETR.

ExpandTheRoom (ETR) is a team of the best people. We are professional and respect each other always. We strive to be a place where everyone, regardless of gender, gender identity and expression, sexual orientation, disability, physical appearance, body size, age, citizenship status, race, or religion, can collaborate to solve problems and produce amazing results that make a positive impact in the lives of our clients and their users.

In pursuit of this ideal, we have created a code of conduct to govern our interactions in the various areas of our shared professional lives. This includes the ExpandTheRoom offices and coworking spaces, home offices, off-site company events, Slack, video conferences, email exchanges, social media, pull request feedback, industry events, and any situation where you, as an employee of ETR, represent ETR.

We created this code because we believe that articulating our values and obligations to one another reinforces the already exceptional level of respect among the team and because having a code helps provides us with clear avenues to quickly address issues should they arise and/or correct our culture should it ever stray from its expected course.

These are our values.

ETR is powered by its principles. Just as our design framework, Purpose-Driven Design, guides how we work and how we approach our projects, this code of conduct should guide us in our interactions with our colleagues.

We demand respect and honesty. We want our team to be a fun, productive, and a safe space for all members. We support diversity and believe it creates informed, productive teams. While we recognize that no one organization can single-handedly do away with bias and prejudice in the workforce, we can make an impact by always hiring the best person for the role, regardless of their age, gender, ethnicity, background, political or religious beliefs. We must also constantly monitor our own internal culture.

Above all, we strive to be a unified team where we can all learn from each other. We maintain open lines of communication and foster good and friendly working relationships with one another. Collaboration is core to our success, so we commit to evolving and improving this code with the help of our team as we learn and grow together.

These behaviors are expected.

Every member of ETR is expected to work hard, be considerate of their colleagues and our clients, and contribute to a collaborative, positive, and healthy environment.

Be supportive of your colleagues, both proactively and responsively. If you see someone struggling or otherwise in need of assistance, offer to help (without being patronizing or disrespectful). If someone approaches you looking for help, be generous with your time; if you’re under a deadline, direct them to someone else who may be of assistance or give them a clear timeframe of when you can help them. Leave the cliques in high school and unproductive egos at the front door.

Be collaborative. Involve your colleagues in brainstorms, sketching sessions, code reviews, planning documents, and the like. It’s not only okay to ask for help or feedback often, it’s unacceptable not to do so. Don’t succumb to either impostor syndrome (believing that you don’t deserve to be here) or blowhard syndrome (believing you can do no wrong). Recognize that in addition to asking for feedback, you are similarly obligated to give it.

Be generous and kind in both giving and accepting feedback. Feedback is a natural and important part of our culture. Good feedback is kind, respectful, clear, and constructive, focused on objective goals and requirements rather than personal preferences. You are expected to give and receive feedback with grace and always in service of producing the best work for our clients.

Be respectful in remote and in-person interactions alike. Our team is remote most of the time. While many of us live in or around New York City and can meet up in person easily, other equally important team members live far away. Adopt habits that are inclusive and productive for team members wherever they are: make liberal use of video conferences, document meetings and decisions thoroughly, record meetings when appropriate, be responsive, articulate, and concise in all communications and project management tools (i.e., email, Slack, Asana). Be mindful of time zones when scheduling events. Understand meetings are expensive and time-consuming. Set meeting expectations clearly by writing up a thoughtful agenda, assigning topic leads and a timekeeper at the time of scheduling. During meetings, be mindful of and balance the length of the meeting against the material to be covered and getting everyone’s input. Only invite people that truly need to be in the meeting. Don’t become an organization who calls meetings to set up meetings about meetings that need to be scheduled. Leave that nonsense to the inefficient corporate world.

Be humane. Be polite and friendly in all forms of communication – especially in non-verbal communications, where opportunities for misunderstanding are greater. Use sarcasm carefully and exercise judgment in use of emojis. Tone is hard to decipher online; assume statements are made in good faith and clarify whenever possible. Use video conferences and in-person meetings when it makes sense, as face-to-face discussion benefits from all kinds of social cues that may go missing in other forms of communication. Over-communicate to make sure your intent is clear, and don’t allow tension from misunderstandings to build up.

These behaviors are unacceptable.

ETR is committed to providing a welcoming and safe environment for everyone regardless of their gender, gender identity and expression, sexual orientation, disability, physical appearance, body size, age, citizenship status, race, or religion. Discrimination and harassment are expressly prohibited.

Harassment includes, but is not limited to:

  • Offensive comments related to gender, gender identity and expression, sexual orientation, disability, mental illness, neuro(a)typicality, physical appearance, body size, age, race, or religion.
  • Unsolicited comments regarding a person’s lifestyle choices and practices, including those related to food, health, parenting, family, and hobbies.
  • Gratuitous or off-topic sexual images or behavior in spaces where they’re not appropriate.
  • Unwelcome sexual attention.
  • Physical contact and simulated physical contact (eg, textual descriptions like “*backrub*”) without consent or after a request to stop. Be respectful of others’ personal boundaries and, if unsure, always default to no physical contact.
  • Threats of violence or incitement of violence towards any individual, including encouraging a person to commit suicide or to engage in self-harm.
  • Stalking or following.
  • Deliberate intimidation.
  • Photographing or recording a person without their knowledge or consent, including logging online activity for harassment purposes.
  • Deliberate misgendering or use of ‘dead’ or rejected names (if you don’t know which pronouns someone uses, politely ask).
  • Sustained interruptions or dismissals.
  • Patterns of inappropriate social contact, such as requesting/assuming inappropriate levels of intimacy with others.
  • Continued one-on-one communication after requests to cease.
  • Deliberate “outing” of any aspect of a person’s identity without their consent except as necessary to protect vulnerable people from intentional abuse.
  • Publication of non-harassing private communication.

Much exclusionary behavior takes the form of microaggressions. These incidents are often considered too small to be reported but contribute to the pervasive and damaging feeling that the recipient is a lesser member of their industry or community. These are often unconsciously delivered, but regardless of intent, can have a significant negative impact and have no place on our team.

Some examples of microaggressions:

  • Treating a female colleague differently than you would treat a male colleague in the same role.
  • Expressing surprise or disbelief when a colleague contributes a good or productive idea. Along the same lines, implying that an accomplished or intelligent individual is somehow exceptional to their race or gender.
  • Expecting a colleague to speak for their entire race, gender, or other group—e.g., asking someone to offer “the female perspective.”
  • Assigning different labels to the same personality traits based on gender, e.g., a forceful, opinionated woman is labeled “bossy” where a man with the same qualities is “ambitious.”Several behaviors that occur frequently in the tech industry are also worth calling out as specifically unwelcome.
  • “Well, actuallys”—pedantic corrections that are often insulting and unproductive.
  • Interrupting your colleagues while they are speaking.
  • With rare exception, multitasking during a conversation rather than giving the speaker your full attention is counterproductive. In you find yourself in a meeting you are not giving or receiving value from, consider politely leaving that meeting.
  • Responding with surprise or disdain when someone asks for help, and patronizing colleagues when giving that help.
  • Assuming complete and unfailing knowledge of a topic, even when your conversation partner is equally or more knowledgeable in that topic.
  • Excluding people from learning opportunities.
  • Dismissing legitimate concerns about communication as the recipient being “too sensitive.”
  • Tone policing, described by Keith Bybee in “How Civility Works” as, “a means to deflect attention from injustice and relocate the problem in the style of the complaint, rather than address the complaint itself.”.

Something went wrong–what can you do about it?

These guidelines are ambitious, and we’re not always going to succeed in meeting them. When something happens—whether it’s a microaggression or an instance of harassment—there are a number of things you can do to address the situation with your fellow ETR team members or with your manager, or the leadership team. We know that you’ll do your best work if you’re happy and comfortable in your surroundings, so we take concerns about this stuff very seriously.

Depending on your comfort level and the severity of the situation, here are some things you can do:

Address it directly. If you’re comfortable bringing up the incident with the person(s) who instigated it, pull them aside to discuss how it affected you (and if you’re not comfortable approaching them, let your manager know why. That’s important too). Try to approach these conversations in a forgiving spirit; an angry or tense conversation will not do either of you any good. The case may often be that the offending person had no idea they were at fault and will very much appreciate you bringing it to their attention.

Talk to a peer or mentor. Your colleagues are likely to have personal and professional experience that could be of use to you. If you have someone you’re comfortable approaching, reach out and discuss the situation with them. They may be able to advise on how they would handle it or direct you to someone who can. The flip side of this, of course, is that you should also be available when your colleagues reach out to you. It’s key in these kinds of conversations, that nothing gets turned into gossip or fuels a rumor mill.

Talk to your manager. Your manager probably knows quite a lot about the dynamics of your team and the company, which makes them a good person to look to for advice. They may also be able to talk directly to the colleague in question if you feel uncomfortable or unsafe doing so yourself. Your manager will be able to help you figure out how to ensure that any conflict with a colleague doesn’t interfere with your work.

Taking care of each other, always.

Sometimes, you’ll witness something that seems like it isn’t aligned with our values. Err on the side of caring for your colleagues in situations like these.

If you want to speak to a person impacted by an incident or to the person who has violated the code of conduct, but you’re unsure of how to navigate these interactions, try reaching out to your manager—these conversations are tricky, and your manager can help you figure out how best to approach them. Keep in mind your impacted colleagues may not want to discuss these matters and you should always respect their decision and not pressure them to do so.

Committing to improvement, but understanding when enough is enough.

We understand that none of us are perfect. It’s expected that all of us, regardless of our backgrounds, will from time to time fail to live up to our very high standards. What matters isn’t having a perfect track record, but owning up to your mistakes and making a clear and persistent effort to improve. If you are approached as having (consciously or otherwise) acted in a way that might make your colleagues feel unwelcome, refrain from being defensive; remember that if someone calls you out, it likely took a great deal of courage for them to do so. The best way to respect that courage is to acknowledge your mistake, apologize, and move on—with a renewed commitment to do better.

That said, repeated or severe violations of this code will be addressed. Anyone asked to stop unacceptable behavior is expected to comply immediately, and failure to do so can lead to disciplinary actions including termination.

Never stop learning, evolving, and improving.

A code of conduct is a step towards creating a better working environment, but it’s not the last step. All members of ETR are encouraged to contribute to this code of conduct by talking with your manager or the leadership team to raise concerns they may have or share feedback.

If you have a question or suggestion about these policies, provide as much context as you can. All changes and suggestions will be taken seriously and vetted by the leadership team, and, if necessary, by the legal department.

Credit and License.

Credit
This code of conduct borrows heavily from the Vox Product Team’s Code of Conduct and the example policy from the Geek Feminism wiki, with ETR-flavored changes.

License
This code of conduct is released under an Attribution CC BY license.