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Topics: Leadership, Organizational Culture, Procurement Management
Accepting gifts.... Let's talk about it.
Network:918



Sometimes we are faced with ethical dilemmas in the workplace. This forces us to stop, analyze and decide what to do. Here is today's topic: would you accept a gift from a potential vendor / supplier or current vendor / supplier if your company policy allows it?

On one hand, you risk compromising your reputation, particularly if you were to make a decision in favor of that vendor. On the other hand, you company policy allows it so it must be ok, right?

What to do? what to do? What to do?

Ethics.... let's talk about it. I'd love to hear many points of view.
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Network:1632



Hi Valerie -

If the value of the gift exceeds a nominal amount OR there is any potential that it is intended to influence a decision, then I wouldn't accept it regardless of my company's policy. To do so would be to violate not only my principles but article 4.3.3 of PMI's Code of Ethics.

As PMs, we need to model the behaviors we expect from our team members and other stakeholders closely involved with a project - this requires that we are above reproach.

Kiron
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1 reply by Valerie Denney
Jun 11, 2019 9:34 AM
Valerie Denney
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Great answer Kiron,

How do you define nominal? How do you determine intent? Those are two questions that many struggle with.

Valerie
Network:21



Agree with the comment above. I've generally seen people accepting year end gifts like gift boxes containing cookies etc. I would avoid anything more expensive and also if the intention is to lure someone into getting things done in their favor. You develop friendly relations with many vendors after a period of time, accepting nominal holiday gifts shouldn't be an issue.
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1 reply by Valerie Denney
Jun 11, 2019 9:36 AM
Valerie Denney
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I tend to agree that end of year exchanges feel like an exception. I know that with my current prior employers we always received a reminder about receiving and exchanging gifts. The issue for many is what is "nominal". It becomes a judgment and how it is perceived.
Network:339



I would generally agree with the above, but there can be some limited exceptions.

In some cultures, it may be considered rude to reject a gift. In that case my employer's policy may actually allow me to accept a gift more than your typical coffee cup or pen with their logo on it, if I either turn the gift over to my company, or pay the nominal value of the gift.
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1 reply by Valerie Denney
Jun 11, 2019 9:39 AM
Valerie Denney
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Cultural pressure and norms can be the driving factor! However when going business with multiple countries and businesses in those locations, things can get sticky. What might be allowed (and expected in your country) might not be somewhere else.
Network:624



The previous answers are great. In addition, I'd add that I'd likely accept any gift I was given, but I wouldn't keep it for myself - instead, I would share it with my team or give it away to a team member (probably as a reward for exceptional work). This would help me avoid the appearance of being influenced by a vendor, sidestep any chance of cultural offence, and set a good example for my team regarding how to deal with gifts.
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1 reply by Valerie Denney
Jun 11, 2019 9:40 AM
Valerie Denney
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Good response. Possibly that softens the perception of favoritism. However, as you pointed out, the leader needs to set the example for the team.
Network:211



I completely agree with the comments above about it needing to be not only allowed by company policy (which needs to take cultural considerations into account), but also that it is inexpensive enough to not influence my decision. However, I would also add that we are often poor judges of what affects us, so I would consult with a trusted friend for their opinion as well for advice on specific gifts offered. If in doubt, I would err on the side of caution. I would also make sure that the potential vendor understands that I am doing all that I can to make ethical decisions, which should help to develop a relationship of trust.
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1 reply by Valerie Denney
Jun 11, 2019 9:43 AM
Valerie Denney
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Great answer, but what is "inexpensive enough not to influence". Erring on the side of caution is a tactic I use too.
I particularly like you comment about making sure the vendor understands your ethical principles. I would add that it is not just the relationship with the vendor alone that contributes to trust, but it is how other stakeholders perceive the action.
Network:7882



I agree with all my peers - great responses!
Network:52



I had the same experience, and I did the same as Eric. Avoiding to be culturally rude, as long as the package's value not exceeds certain small amount, I let the vendor send the package to office, so I can share it among the team. On top of that, I reported about the festive gift to HR or company function that ensures ethical business conduct, while I can still maintain professional and ethical decisions towards vendors.
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1 reply by Valerie Denney
Jun 11, 2019 9:45 AM
Valerie Denney
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Yes! Excellent- report the nominal festive gift to HR to compliance (or whatever it is called in your company). That is transparency!
Network:104338



I find it a little sardonic to think that gifts below a given monetary threshold are okay but not if they are above. At the end of the day, the gift is about influencing the receiver. Granted, it may not get you six-figure contracts. It will, however, have the person think well of you.

Last Christmas, I gave candy boxes to the executives I was working with as a contractor. Did I believe a candy box would get me a contract? Of course not! Did I believe the gift would have them think kindly of me? Absolutely.
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1 reply by Valerie Denney
Jun 11, 2019 9:50 AM
Valerie Denney
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I love this response! Many, many organizations set a monetary threshold. How did they come up with that number? What if it were to be set at 10% more, or 10% less? Would the influence be quantifiable? It is all about perception... not necessarily about the relationship between you and the contractor, but others not involved in the transaction. Transparency and consistency are the keys.
Network:103



I would make myself some questions before accepting any gifts from potential vendors.

Would this gift somehow influence my decision? How would this behaviour be perceived by others?

When Ethics is the topic, it’s better to stay at the safe side. As Project Manager we are in a leadership position, therefore we also need to do the right thing and be perceived to be doing the right thing.
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1 reply by Valerie Denney
Jun 11, 2019 9:52 AM
Valerie Denney
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This is a wonderful approach. Stop, think, and then respond. Are you familiar with the PMI Ethical Decision Making Framework-- it is a structured mechanism to ask these questions.
https://www.pmi.org/-/media/pmi/documents/...g-framework.pdf
Network:779



I think it is best not to accept any gifts from potential vendors as accepting gifts, rewards or benefits might compromise our integrity or the company's.

We need to consider the impact of gift receiving, if we feel exploited or manipulated then encouraging or accepting gifts would be unethical.

On the other hand, if there is a closing project party and there will be small gifts for the project team then I would think those gifts are purely an expression of gratitude. Receiving them and reporting them to your company should not be a problem
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1 reply by Valerie Denney
Jun 11, 2019 9:56 AM
Valerie Denney
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Absolutely! Consider the impact. I firmly believe that many situations can be effectively resolved if we stop, analyze and then act.... not in the reserve order.
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