The Ethics of Gifting at Workplace
There are ethics of gifting at workplace. When I first read that in my first job at Corporate America I was taken aback. I had worked in the Middle East. In that culture ‘gifting’ or as they fondly call it…… is part of life. In India ‘gifting’ your Boss was a done thing especially if you were looking to be in his good books.
So, outside USA gift giving is an important cultural tradition. It’s instrumental in building professional relationships such as the giving of red envelopes for Chinese New Year.
But in the USA, there are rules-ethics of gifting at workplace. Today we are going to explore these ethics of gifting at workplace and learn:
What are the Ethics of gifting at workplace?
Under the ethics regulation, a gift is anything that has monetary value which you obtain for less than “market value.” It also applies to services, training, transportation, travel, lodging, and mealsAccording to the US Department of Interior
What that means is that the ethics of gifting reflect the intention of the owner.
First, consider what is the point of the gift or hospitality? Is it to influence a relationship or induce improper conduct? Or is it simply a token of thanks?
So, when is business gift giving ethical?
For example, on my colleague’s birthday I get a funny hoodie for $20 she will be happy. She knows she can reciprocate by getting me a gift on my birthday.
Since we both are not in any decision-making role a ‘gift’ here would be appropriate.
On the other hand, it would be unethical if you were to get a gift for your Boss. As your Boss is in a position to help you in your career.
Because by gifting the Boss you are trying to influence his decision even though it is subtle.
Why we need to follow these ethics of gifting at work?
We need to follow these ethics of gifting at workplace to avoid conflicts of interest, both real and perceived.
A clear company gift policy in place is a good idea. Having proper guidelines will help gift exchanges between employees and customers, vendors, suppliers, job applicants and other business stakeholders.
If you’re a business owner or manager, a major part of your role is to shape company culture. With responsibility comes the opportunity to establish and enforce clear policies and procedures designed to give everyone piece of mind.
Employees need guidance on the company’s protocol on giving or accepting gifts or hospitality. This includes seeking approval from their line manager or someone more senior, recording it in a gifts and hospitality register.
Some expensive gifts will either be donated to charity or auctioned off!Gifting in the Workplace: What Are The Ethics? Click To Tweet
Company’s code of ethics or gift and hospitality policy. usually explains this. This outlines the company’s position on gifts and hospitality, and set out good practice for employees.
But gift and hospitality policy needs to be consistent with all aspects of an organization’s ethics program in encouraging high standards of honesty and integrity in decision-making and behavior.
Upholding code of conduct will help set clear expectations for employees to practice and demonstrate equal treatment and non-discriminatory actions in the workplace.
And, yes, this can include gift-giving guidance during the holidays and beyond
What determines the inappropriateness of gifts?
In my opinion what determines the appropriateness/inappropriateness of gifts are these 3 factors.
What does the gift-giver expect in return? Is it just a birthday gift?
Timing is also of key importance. Are you on the brink of closing a large deal with a customer that if secured, would increase your end of year bonus by a not insignificant amount?
Or a gift was offered shortly before or during a tendering process?
It is not just giving but also the accepting of gifts and hospitality that is punishable.
- Reciprocity factor:
It goes without saying that if the aim is to create an expectation of a “favorable” act in return for the gift or hospitality, then it probably isn’t a gift.
When is it appropriate gifting at workplace?
I strongly believe that its appropriate to exchange gifts at workplace within the same level. The moment you get a gift for your superior & he accepts it does it does two things.
Firstly, perception of employees change that you are trying to cozy up to your Manager and your Manager is playing favorites.
Secondly, you alienate yourself from your co-workers because now your colleagues fear that you are part of the ‘management ‘ or a spy.
To conclude the ethics of gifting the US follows are of very high standard. In my opinion there is nothing wrong in getting a gift or two for your colleague on a special occasion.
But if you were to get gifts for your superiors at workplace then your motives aren’t that simple. You are trying to either cozy up or get favors.
That’s the reason Corporate America usually lays down guidelines about gifting at workplace which can be found in their Policy Books. Do take a look at that & avoid problems.
What do you think?
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