In this article for the WA Leader Magazine (from the WA branch of the Australian Institute of Management), Michelle was interviewed by the author about the art of receiving gifts in the workplace.
‘Please accept this gift as a token of our appreciation’ isn’t a phrase that typically makes you think twice. However, this isn’t always the case in the workplace.
“It’s all about perception versus reality,” Change Leadership and Career Mentor and Change Meridian Founder Michelle Gibbings told Leader.
“You might accept a gift and have absolutely no intent of being persuaded in some way to do something, but people may look at that and think otherwise.
“Organisations don’t want to ﬁnd themselves in a situation where they are having to fend off allegations of inappropriate behaviour, particularly if the person is senior within the organisation.”
On the other hand, Ms Gibbings said, when it came to accepting a gift, be it a physical item, beneﬁt or hospitality as a consequence of undertaking work duties – doing so could hurt not only your reputation, but that of the company you work for.
Organisations often have codes of conduct, which determine the types and values of gifts permissible, circumstances where they can be accepted and more.
Each organisation will typically have a speciﬁc approach often based on its industry.
For example, ﬁnancial service organisations have regulations around conﬂicts of interest. Organisations which deal overseas often have a raft of requirements which determine how one handles potential bribery or corruption.
Ms Gibbings said clear and accessible group-wide policies, procedures and tools around this were crucial.
“Leaders need to ensure it is part of a new employee’s induction to certify they are aware of policies and procedures with respect to gifts and entertainment, and also to put out regular reminders to employees so they don’t forget these,” she said.
In Western Australia, political parties, associated entities, candidates and groups are required to submit both annual and election returns to the Western Australian Electoral Commission under the Electoral Act 1907.
Failing to do so can have career-ending consequences, with some Australian politicians falling victim to their relevant state or territory guidelines in the past.
New South Wales Premier Barry O’Farrell resigned in 2014 when caught denying he was gifted a $3000 bottle of wine.
Perth Lord Mayor Lisa Scaffidi made headlines when a high-proﬁle investigation by Western Australia’s Corruption and Crime Commission in 2015 found she had failed to disclose gifts, hospitality packages and contributions to travel in her annual return. On March 2, 2018, Ms Scaffidi and the
Perth City Council were suspended for ongoing governance issues.
Speaking to Leader, Public Sector Commissioner Sharyn O’Neill said all public sector agencies had codes of conduct, policies and procedures about gifts, beneﬁts and hospitality.
“They need to ensure their staff – new and old – know what is expected,” she said.
“We get paid by taxpayers to do our job, and our job is act in the public interest every day through the decisions we make and the actions we take.
“We need the trust of the community to deliver services that families, individuals, businesses and industry need for them to prosper and for the State to grow. Any time we breach that trust, it has a huge impact. It angers and disappoints the community and it takes away from the vast majority of public sector staff who do great work each day providing services.
“Building a strong culture of integrity starts at the top. Leaders must not only ensure the right mechanisms and governance are in place but they must also lead by their own behaviour. That behaviour has to reﬂect community and government expectations.”
Ms Gibbings said having effective gift policies in place was simply a matter of good governance.
“Organisations which have good governance practices have clear, well-documented, well-implemented procedures around how to handle the receipt of gifts and entertainment – it is fairly standard practice,” Ms Gibbings said.