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

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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In my years of working in companies around the world there was always a code of conduct that covered this type of situations.
1 reply by Valerie Denney
Jun 11, 2019 9:58 AM
Valerie Denney
Me too. I feel fortunate that our organizations gave guidance on how to handle situations.

Most of the companies specially in Project Business do put a clear cut policy for their employee to receive gifts from vendors, suppliers, manufacturer and contractors. They fix a certain amount for Gift's worth which can be accepted.
In today's' business world a blank "No" to minor, cheaper good-will gifts like New Year Company Diaries, Pens and other office utility items can rather be rude i think, but one should never let his business decisions be effected by such gifts. I only accept cheaper gifts within the company policy and my other condition is always that such gifts should be for everyone in my office , not just me.( Hence most of contractors avoid offering any expensive gifts.....)

The answer is no, I wont accept gifts related to my position as a project manager from my direct supplier or contractor.
The only gifts accepted are agendas, pens, usb keys and things like that with logos. It's also ok when sometimes they are gifted with chocolate box for the end of the year as it is the practice here and they are gifted to everyone not only me.
Here, it is also ok to accept invitations for lunch from contractors when meetings exceeds 1pm, sometimes in restaurants (they are not expensive here) or sometimes delivered in site if it is a construction project. But the trick is that it's for all the attendees. If you are alone with the contractor in the restaurant then it becomes to look suspect, and you definitly dont want that.
I agree with what has been said earlier about some cultures where it is considered rude to refuse a gift. I can understand that, but in my opinion you must accept it only from your client/customer, and you can still politly refuse it from supplier/contractor when it exceeds a reasonable amount for ethics considerations.

I agree in general accepting no gifts is the best manner. in the case of marketing or project collateral such as shirts and pens those are usually for team building rather then influence. I will say that some cultures have exchanging small gifts as part of showing respect and in this case would report to company

If my company allows accepting the gifts up to some value, I will accept the same. It is my responsibility to follow the cultural norm in which my org operates and if this is one, I have to accept it.

I think that generally speaking not accepting gift, or giving them, is best practice.

Note that in some country, It could be considered an insult, to refuse or not give a gift.

Accepting or giving a gift of value is opening the door to an apparent conflict of interest. Lower value gift can be considered, The Company should be kept informed.

I Have seen cases, where gift are return or an equivalent value gift, is send back!

Jun 10, 2019 4:19 PM
Replying to Kiron Bondale
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.

Great answer Kiron,

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


Jun 10, 2019 4:33 PM
Replying to Swati Dubey
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.
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.

Jun 10, 2019 5:27 PM
Replying to Keith Novak
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.
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.

Jun 10, 2019 6:22 PM
Replying to Eric Simms
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.
Good response. Possibly that softens the perception of favoritism. However, as you pointed out, the leader needs to set the example for the team.
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