If Frozen Meat Isn’t a Bribe, What About Raw Meat?

Christmas gifts.

Image via Wikipedia

In addition to my “Can Coffee Prevent Suicides” story, there is one other ethics story that sticks out in my mind.
I had just graduated from college and was starting my very first real job as a Research Psychologist in the Ontario government. Every week, everyone on the floor attended an update meeting held by the Assistant Deputy Minister (ADM). Since it was my first job, I was quite content to shut my trap and stay hidden behind all the more important, more experienced workers. Listen and learn.
It was getting near Christmas and the ADM decided we were due for a speech on ethics. She shared with us the fact that gifts from other offices, clients, or vendors could be seen as an attempt to gain favour or bribe us. We had contacts at the fire marshal’s office, the coroner’s office, the victims services unit, the policing unit, and correctional services unit and could easily obtain or pass on information that we shouldn’t. She informed us that we were to politely decline gifts, explain why we had to decline, and thank them for their thoughtfulness. What ensued astounded me.

“Are baseball tickets included?”
“Are dinner vouchers included?”
“Are free office supplies included?”
“Are frozen steaks included?”
“Are short weekend trips included?”

Wow. I could not believe my ears. People were working really hard to try and figure out if they could keep the specific gifts they were receiving. In what world does the phrase “do not accept gifts” did not include… gifts.

I do realize that we need to draw a line. For me, pens with your company logo on them don’t cross the line. Meat, on the other hand, just picked up the virtual line, walked under it to the other side and quickly ran away.

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