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many ethical questions depend very much on the specific environment and circumstances.
The ethical decision these team members have to make may be characterized by a critical timing (before final acceptance) and the fact that gifts are given at all and also in a rather impersonal manner.
Some environments reject to give or accept any gifts, or just to a certain amount. If the gift cards extend such a value they might be even illegal. Without that it could be perceived as an example of given something with the expectation of getting something back by creating an emotion of debt. This would be dishonest.
It may be unfair to other contractors to accept such a gift.
And it might be irresponsible to accept such a gift, as the professional work by the team member is awarded by their organization and not by contractors.
But as I said, it is always a specific decision and judgement to be made by the individuals.
If there is an expectation that this will help the subcontractor get follow-on work then it likely crosses the line. It is also important to check the policies of the companies involved and any government regulations governing such activity.
First, you should refer to your company's policy. I would not accept the gift, however, you may accept and do not violate any rules or codes of ethics. it depends on the specific case
It will depends on the organization code of ethics. Above it are country laws and regulations. Putting it in other field will be subjective and it is to enter in a debate that belongs to phylosofy and started 2000 years ago without resolution yet.
As a contractor myself, I will give small tokens of appreciation to my clients. My intention is not to create an emotional debt but rather goodwill.
As others have said, you should first refer to you organization's ethical policy about receiving gifts. After that, consider how accepting the gift makes you appear to others. You might want to go the extra mile and politely refuse the gift so you don't have even the appearance of impropriety.
To be on the safe side, it is best to decline this gift offer, more especially if there is a follow-on work.
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