Gifts between employees

As a matter of etiquette, there are various types of gifts that one should never give to a boss or other colleague.  Here  is a list of eight such gift types (including “adult” items and cash).

Virtually all corporate codes of conduct have limits or guidance concerning employees receiving gifts and entertainment from those doing or seeking to do business with the company.   Most (but not all) codes also seem to address employees giving gifts to third parties – particularly actual or potential customers.   But much rarer in codes are discussions of purely internal (i.e., employee-to-employee) gift giving.

Of course, the risks of a significant conflict of interest arising from this sort of gift giving are presumably less than in   either of the external contexts, at least as a general matter.  But one can readily envision situations involving actual or apparent conflicts based on internal gift giving, and one does occasionally hear of gifts in this context that clearly “cross the line,” even if no line is explicitly drawn in a company’s code.

So, as with any C&E standards, it may be best to be explicit, for instance, by providing  in a code or COI policy document that gifts between employees should:

– be consistent with the spirit of the company’s COI policy,

– be otherwise appropriate to the situation, and

– not be – or be likely to be seen as – an attempt to influence the recipient’s business judgment.

Soliciting gifts can also raise ethical issues, for instance, if a supervisor lets those in his work unit know when his birthday is, in a way that suggests that something be done for the occasion.  While I’ve seen this before (involving repeated reminders about the individual’s birthday), I don’t think it is common enough to warrant mention in a code.

Finally, in the public sector these issues can be even more significant – as evidenced by this story  from a few years back about a loan made by Chris Christie, then a prosecutor, to a colleague in his office who, by some accounts, was in a position to use her position to help his campaign for governor (although both the colleague and Christie denied this was the point of the loan).


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