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Old 09-09-08, 08:46 AM   #1
maddmaxx 
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OT 50+ ethics?

I have just been informed by one of my vendors that I have won a laptop computer in a contest that I didn't know was happening. It has nothing to do with a government contract because I'm working on civilian world designs this year.

I'd love to have that laptop...................but, I'm one of those guys I feel sorry for..........ethical. There is no posted policy concerning this matter. So I requested one.

Probably, the laptop is the property of the company. Some of my coworkers think I'm a fool for not taking it and running with it. I have some problems with the conflict of interest thing. I might be put in a position to buy parts from this vendor in the future.

What's 50+ think. I think I'll go for a ride to clear my head.
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Old 09-09-08, 08:53 AM   #2
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Our company does have posted policies on matters such as this
and if you worked for our company you would be violating the
comapny policy by accepting a gift (prize) from a vendor.

So send me the laptop and enjoy the ride.
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Old 09-09-08, 08:59 AM   #3
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I don't allow vendors to take me, individually, to lunch.

Nor do I accept any gifts other than the food items sent during the holidays and those are shared with the entire staff.

By doing it this way, it removes any shadow of suspicion of less than proper dealings.

Integrity = Doing the right thing even when no one is watching.
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Old 09-09-08, 09:13 AM   #4
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Ok, so what if the laptop is the property of the Company. Let the Company own it and let the employees use the Company laptop.

You're an employee, so ask the Company supervisor for permission to use it.

Will this work?
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Old 09-09-08, 09:14 AM   #5
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Old 09-09-08, 09:15 AM   #6
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I don't allow vendors to take me, individually, to lunch.

Nor do I accept any gifts other than the food items sent during the holidays and those are shared with the entire staff.

By doing it this way, it removes any shadow of suspicion of less than proper dealings.

Integrity = Doing the right thing even when no one is watching.
+1 And when others are telling you to do otherwise. Sounds like you know what's right; you'll sleep happier without that laptop.
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Old 09-09-08, 09:26 AM   #7
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I've worked in local government my whole working life. We are not allowed to accept any gifts or services of value (over $ 25.00). I don't accept gifts or meals of any value what so ever. I've seen peers ,over the years, take gifts and services that would be illegal then observed them purchase goods from the same vender which could have been purchased at much less or specified differently. You'll be making the right choice by declining the "free gift". A laptop has value and the gift giver intends to remind the reciever of his generosity some where down the line.
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Old 09-09-08, 09:31 AM   #8
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+1
Yen, You getting a handle on those clipless pedals yet?
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Old 09-09-08, 09:32 AM   #9
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This would violate the posted ethics rule at the company where I work.

BTW, years ago, when I was in journalism school, a crusty old professor gave us a lecture on ethics and about the real-world problem of how do you *not* accept gifts from someone while still living in a world where people extend "small courtesies" all the time (e.g., a lunch invitation). As usual, the trick is to *never* be in a position to be accused of taking something inappropriate, while still "getting along" with people.

I still remember his summary on gifts:

"If you can eat it, drink it, or smoke it, it's OK to take it. If you can spend it, drive it, wear it, or sleep with it, don't."

I think a laptop is in the "don't" category by his rules as well.

(BTW, I don't endorse the "eat it, drink, smoke it, take it" rule. Even that is a slippery slope....lunch at Subway is one matter; a vendor who feels the need to take you to dinner at a five-star restaurant once a quarter is entirely another).

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Old 09-09-08, 09:49 AM   #10
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I don't allow vendors to take me, individually, to lunch.

Nor do I accept any gifts other than the food items sent during the holidays and those are shared with the entire staff.

By doing it this way, it removes any shadow of suspicion of less than proper dealings.

Integrity = Doing the right thing even when no one is watching.
Ed - You wouldn't make a very good politician.
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Old 09-09-08, 09:55 AM   #11
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Let's see. Is it a WHITE computer? (That changes everything.)

But seriously, I worked with General Dynamics during it's ethics scandal back in the 80's. That's when they got in trouble for having a CEO who charged the government for having his (air conditioned) doghouse shipped from one part of the country to another, among other things.

Anyway, we were taught that an ethical dilemma was a situation in which you are faced with two right answers (as opposed to right vs. wrong). We were then given a number of "tests" to use to evaluate each path (in your case, whether or not to accept the lap top). The final test was called the Washington Post test. Would, if you accepted the laptop, it look "right" to people who might read an article about it in their local newspaper? If not, even if it were "right" by all the other tests you shouldn't do it.

Taking the laptop may actually BE ethical, by any number of standards, but if it LOOKS unethical, (or makes you lose sleep thinking about it at night) it's not worth taking.

Unless it's white, of course.
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Old 09-09-08, 10:06 AM   #12
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I'm glad.........not surprised...........to hear from my peers that ethics are still in fashon. It surprises me a little that several workers would have made a grab for the computer and run. Most of those have no official relationship with vendors so perhaps I should give the benefit of doubt for lack of formal training.

On the other hand, I was raised this way, and I am sometimes surprised to find folks who weren't.

I passed the request for a formal company policy on (before I started this thread) to my supervisor along with a recomendation that at the very least, the computer should be given to my lab where we can probably hook it up to some piece of instrumentation that we would have had to buy a computer for. Seemed like the right thing to do.

I have worked jobs in the past for the government where I had to ask vendors to remove both my company and myself from contests even before we won anything.

On other projects (I actually did one for Yen and her company) the computer would have automatically become part of the residual property belonging to the projects parent company. They would then have to deal with the disposition of the property. (on many contracts, the residuals are destroyed to prevent disposition conflicts)
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Old 09-09-08, 10:10 AM   #13
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The final test was called the Washington Post test. Would, if you accepted the laptop, it look "right" to people who might read an article about it in their local newspaper? If not, even if it were "right" by all the other tests you shouldn't do it.
Golly, Gee.

When I was a kid we called that the "Caesar's Wife" test. I'm thinking that I must be older than you.
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Old 09-09-08, 10:25 AM   #14
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Option 1. Disclosure...there are rules, systems and procedures, policies, regulations and statutory state, federal and international laws. If accepting a gift does not violate a law AND written company policies then the issue is one of appearance and possibly other matters. Since policies can be ambiguous and the appearance of doing something wrong, even if it is not, very damaging, just disclose to your superior and/or personnel that you won an item and in fact did not enter any contest. What would they like you to do? They have 3 possible responses...take it, refuse it or turn it into the company. They also may be unhappy with the vendor who may have a track record of doing this. In the most conspiracy theory hypos, the company put the vendor up to it to see what employees will do. IMHO, it is company property since you would not have been "in the lottery" if you would have not been working for the company. These are very tricky situations so tread carefully.

Option 2. Refusual...just refuse it. You did not enter any lottery to win so you are not entitled to the computer. There are strings attached to taking the computer. You really do not want to get embroiled with personnel, your boss, the vendor, why did the vendor select you and etc. There is no free lunch.

I would go with option 2 and buy the computer you want.

Edit: MaddM: The more I think about this it strikes me that a computer is a lot of money. People talk about free lunches, a pen, a tee shirt and etc. However, a computer is a few hundred dollars and depending on the model may be more. To a third party observer (me) and a former President and director of a company, this does not feel right on many fronts. Be careful.

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Old 09-09-08, 10:26 AM   #15
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I work for the University of Wisconsin and thus the State of Wisconsin. I cannot accept anything worth more than about $10 from a vendor ... like a lunch or some marketing trinket. I have "won" a variety of prizes from vendors over the years that I have turned down.

We also apply the Washington Post test ... if your act would be very difficult to explain should it be published in the local papers, then don't do it.

But that is my situation. I don't know if it has any relevance to yours.
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Old 09-09-08, 11:51 AM   #16
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Ed - You wouldn't make a very good politician.
Thank you. Thank you very much.


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Old 09-09-08, 12:16 PM   #17
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I have a far simpler solution. I would ask my supervisor what he/she thinks and do that.
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Old 09-09-08, 12:22 PM   #18
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I would expect a 1099 for the value of the computer if accepted, and you would need to pay taxes and social security, and it would mess up your tax return a bit.

But, I wouldn't take it, period.

These things have a way of coming back and haunting you.
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Old 09-09-08, 01:12 PM   #19
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I have to agree with the Fox on this one... I work in a highly regulated industry and we have posted rules on not accepting anything from anyone. I can't even do a lunch. That way I am and will always be above reproach at least as to the decision and use of vendors. They try to give or send things to me all the time but I Know they are also trying to solicite my business. I can't make decisions based on who will give me the nicest presents... leads to all sort of nasty things. The only exception is Christmas time - if I receive a gift from a vendor it can be kept but it must be set out for others to use or take first. If anything is left over, I can have it. A picked over fruit basket ain't all that desirable!

Madd - bottom line if it feels wrong to you... you have your answer.
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Old 09-09-08, 02:07 PM   #20
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I agree. Cosequently, a formal report was made to the companies ethics investigation division for purposes of determining the disposition of the material. I was rather surprised to find no posted official policy. It appears that each incident is handled individually. Copies of all the communications were placed in a case file for a final determination by the ethics folks. This would seem to be the best solution for all. At least in the future there will be official guidelines.
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Old 09-09-08, 03:12 PM   #21
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. . .informed by one of my vendors that I have won a laptop computer in a contest that I didn't know was happening.
A Trap for Fools as ever was.
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Old 09-09-08, 03:15 PM   #22
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I won an apple newton at a trade show. I was there representing the company, but without a booth, just mingling. I used my company card for the fishbowl. I kept it. Never had a second thought about it, but there was no chance of a conflict of interest, either.
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Old 09-09-08, 03:28 PM   #23
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Originally Posted by Ed in GA View Post
I don't allow vendors to take me, individually, to lunch.

Nor do I accept any gifts other than the food items sent during the holidays and those are shared with the entire staff.

By doing it this way, it removes any shadow of suspicion of less than proper dealings.

Integrity = Doing the right thing even when no one is watching.
+1 to all the above. It takes years to build a reputation. It takes only one poor decision to ruin it. I don't even let vendors buy me lunch.

Now, if they wanted to fly me up north for a fitting and order on a new Waterford I might compromise my moral stance somewhat.
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Old 09-09-08, 03:32 PM   #24
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A wise man once told me that 'you must not only avoid impropriety but the appearance of impropriety'.

You could always a note of thanks but say you cannot accept and suggest that it be given to a local non profit.
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Old 09-09-08, 03:53 PM   #25
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Well OK, I called it a Trap for Fools above but there are many who make whole (highly successful) careers and whole (highly sucessful) lives from artful quid pro quo of which 'Maxx's challenge is a quaint example. How each one of us answers this challenge is a prime determinant of character. No pressure there, 'Maxx!
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