The Bribery Act, which received the Royal Assent last year, may put an end to Christmas or other business gifts between and within companies according to an article in the Telegraph. The Bribery Act aims to create a better framework to fight bribery and limit the value of gifts and presents individuals can receive in the UK. Offering football tickets, champagne or hampers to domestic and international clients used to be commonplace but with this Bribery Act they may now be illegal and need to be returned to avoid any accusation of bribery.
Indeed, the line between a simple gift of appreciation and a corruption attempt is sometimes thin, especially depending on the intercultural context. What is seen as a sign of appreciation or reward in one culture may be considered bribery in another and vice versa. International businesses need to ensure their employees have the right intercultural training to ensure they have the intercultural knowledge and awareness they need to gift gifts appropriately across cultures.
In the Middle East for instance, being generous is highly valued and offering a gift tends to be seen as a strong mark of friendship as well as a necessary step towards building a profitable business relationship. Generosity is also illustrated by the price and value of the gift, meaning that business presents are sometimes incredibly luxurious in the Middle East. Refusing a present is a terrible faux pas that can lead to a cultural clash or to the end of a promising contract or business partnership. A lack of intercultural awareness on gift giving in the Middle East can significantly hinder the relationship or break organisational policies around gift giving.
At the other end of the scale, some cultures are extremely cautious and even suspicious when it comes to receiving and offering gifts. The Nordic Countries are a perfect example of this trend. In 2010 Denmark was rated the “least corrupted country in the world” and countries such as Finland and Norway are also recognised internationally as models when it comes to fighting bribery and corruption. This reluctance to receive and offer presents can be difficult for anyone who is used to a gift giving etiquette. Seeing their kind gesture perceived as a bribery attempt or refused can result in frustration or offense.
International organisations doing business across cultures need to be prepared and equipped with the relevant intercultural awareness to create and apply adapted strategies around gift giving across the globe. Intercultural awareness training courses such as Doing Business in the Middle East can help organisations to do business across cultures more effectively. Through the analysis of different cultural traits and their impact on business practices, individuals and organisations will be able to handle all aspect of doing business across cultures.
Equipped with this important intercultural knowledge, companies and their employees doing business abroad will be able to adapt to the business etiquette of their counterparts. By adopting the appropriate behaviour and business policies according to the cultures they work with, organisations will be able to avoid fines and suspicions of bribery when giving presents. In accordance with new Bribery Act, it’s important to not only consider how to give gifts to international clients but to also consider what you can receive from them in return. Knowing the gift etiquette of your international clients will also help you to avoid causing offense and build a stronger and more profitable working relationship.
© Communicaid Group Ltd. 2011