‘Tis the Season — for ethical gift-giving practices

Business is a human, social activity that focuses on building and strengthen relationships. And so, offering gifts can, at certain times, be a valuable part of business as a way to demonstrate respect or show appreciation for a customer or partner organization, including for business partners in other cultures.

Ethical Snapshot: Helpful reminders about the proper role of business gifts and entertainment and when they lead to questionable practices.

Why could an issue arise?

While gifts and entertainment are often given and received in business, they can be a hotbed for ethics and legal concerns. Depending on the context in which a gift is offered, gift-giving may be misconstrued by others as:

  • A conflict of interest
  • A way to provide improper influence on a business decision
  • Attempted bribery or kickback

What could happen?

Poorly considered exchanges of business courtesies could:

  • Disqualify your organization from potential business opportunities
  • Lead to legal fines and other sanctions
  • Smear reputations
  • Ruin careers

What should you do before giving a gift?

Offering gifts or entertainment should not put you, your colleagues or your organization at risk. Before you exchange these business courtesies within a business setting, you should be asking yourself three questions:

  1. What are the rules for exchanging gifts and entertainment?
  2. Are the local customs for the exchange of business courtesies appropriate for my business and the situation?
  3. Should I seek guidance on the subject, and is this guidance sound?

What should you do before receiving a gift?

When acting on behalf of an organization, individuals should never accept gifts and benefits unless it is clear that the particular gift or benefit:

  1. Does not diminish the authority or ability of the organization’s representative to independently make decisions and act in the best interest of the organization
  2. Enhances the best interests of the organization as a whole, either by providing more time to learn about the inner workings of the client or company being served, or education about the greater corporate community as a whole
  3. Has no apparent impact on professional judgment or appearance of bias.

About Ethical Snapshots: Ethical snapshots are microlearning and communications modules designed to address a range of ethics and compliance issues through videos and follow-on questions to prompt the learner to explore a situation and consider ways to best address it. Ethical Snapshots can be used in your organization as emails to your employees, on video monitors in high-traffic areas or during instructor/manager-led training. View More Ethical Snapshots