Corruption And The Workplace
Corruption And The Workplace
By Gail Kasper, television host of Raw Reality, author, and motivational speaker
Corruption. A simple definition of corruption is dishonest activity by those in authority. And, yes, usually bribery in some form is involved. So, let’s talk about that, while those who are influenced by corruption: CEO’s, politicians, or even managers, administrators or colleagues are considered to be guilty of it, there are at least two parties involved in every act of corruption: the one who bribes, and the one who is bribed. (Sometimes additional parties are involved as facilitators to the actual corruption)
In the business word, corruption is as old as time. Even during the days of bartering, when a merchant sold textiles, and accepted lavish items from the person with first access to his inventory, corruption was present.
In modern times, there is in fact so much corruption that not every act of such is covered on the national news or in the papers. Sadly, corruption tactics are viewed as standard business practices, particularly in a competitive market, and corruption knows no age, socioeconomic, or other stereotypical limits: it’s not just something a mafia does.
So far, in the 2013 fiscal year, the Internal Revenue Service has opened fifteen public corruption investigations. Some examples from those investigations include: lawyers bribing a judge in Texas, public officials using tax dollars for family vacations to Hawaii, and non-profit executives finding ways to funnel dollars to electoral campaigns. These examples are extreme, and involve hundreds of thousands of dollars in damages or restitution. But, corruption does not have to be complicated.
Did you know that bribe and incentive are synonymous terms? In this way, ordinary business people bribe their colleagues every day. For example, of Johnny, the CEO, wants some reports run by noon, he may bribe his support staff by offering a cash bonus to the person who can get it done most timely. This would be a bribe because those “bonuses” are paid in cash and often evasive of taxes and other mandatory deductions. Furthermore, the bonus offer may only have been extended to select staff rather than his entire support pool, running the risk of discrimination. And how many lunches have you attended that are paid for by the vendor? One might even say that the conference we’ve attended, where the sponsor pays for our meals and goodie bags is considered some form of bribe. In addition, there are employees striving to get ahead in the corporate world and instead of participating in the group gift, insist upon giving their own personalized gift for the boss’s birthday.
So, in a business world where bribes are common, what should you do when faced with one? Unfortunately, the critics don’t really address how to deal with the ordinary “I’ll buy you lunch…if…” concepts. So, we are forced to use our own moral compasses to decide.
Thus, I offer you the following advice:
1. Be proactive when incentivized. Think about what the offer, or incentive means. Even if you’re starving because you packed your kid’s lunch of cold pop-tarts and have five dollars in the bank after paying your mortgage, for example, do not accept even the free lunch if it is offered in a discriminatory way or even a way that exploits you. Accepting bribes can lead to assumptions by your superiors about the way you perceive your own worth. If on Monday, you come into the office and work for Joe’s Jambalaya served from a food cart, your management will assume you’re willing to do the same the next day, and may make other assumptions as to how far they can push you, at maximum benefit to them and minimal benefit to you (is the $5.00 Jambalaya really worth working through your lunch hour…probably not). Only agree to work extra time when the policies outlines in your Employee Handbook are followed. If you don’t have an employee handbook, check with the Department of Labor when asked to perform extra work.
2. Don’t be selective when you’re being generous. Sure, we’re all closer to certain colleagues than others, but during holidays or special occasions, cover your own reputation. Don’t give birthday or holiday gifts at work, and for that matter, maintain a professional distance from your supervisor to avoid being viewed as corrupt even if that is not your intention.
3. Finally, turn to your gut. You know your values and what’s acceptable to you. When you follow them, meticulously, you will answer only to yourself in the long run.