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My job involves me visiting the offices of several different customers, often the whole day. Usually, for lunchtime, I either bring my own food, buy something from a local store close to the customer's office. I recently read this question, which reminded me of how somewhat recently the customer invited me for lunch while I was working there. The meal costed about 25€, which was more than I would have been willing to spend on my own lunch, but less than what I would consider "lavish".

Could this possibly be interpreted as an attempt at bribery? Could it have negative connotations for my career for accepting the offer?


Some further context about my situation:

  • I have no say in which projects are done or not done.
  • I have no say in who is assigned to which projects.
  • Them inviting me for lunch did not impact the quality of my work.
  • The anti-bribery policy at my employer explicitly forbids me from accepting gifts that could be "improper" or in cash.
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    @JoeStrazzere Our ethics policy says that we are not allowed to receive gifts that are "improper" or in cash. What is proper or improper is difficult for me to say. No customer before invited me for lunch, so it may at least be considered unusual. – Lucas F. Oct 3 '19 at 13:00
  • @JoeStrazzere That's good advice. I've come to the conclusion that that is probably the best course of action, even though I fear that it'll be something that is intentionally worded loosely so that it can be decided on a case-by-case basis. – Lucas F. Oct 3 '19 at 13:06
  • My HR department explained that lunch and dinner invitations are considered alright, as long as the price for it isn't considered "too high" (although I did not get an estimate for what that might mean). As far as the interpretation goes, it was, as I suspected, kept as a high-level statement. – Lucas F. Oct 3 '19 at 13:37
  • Did the system go trigger happy with the deletes? These are clarification answers without the question, so this reads really weird. – Nelson Oct 4 '19 at 2:51
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You need to consult your organization's guidelines. The companies that I've worked for had anti-bribery and corruption training and rules. Among other things, they would specify what types and monetary values of things could begin to pose a problem. If you still have concerns, then you can address them with your manager, HR, or an ethics team.

Personally, I'd consider what the typical cost of lunch in that area is and how frequently it happens. Having lunch from time to time with people that you are working with or working for is not uncommon or improper and doesn't seem problematic on the surface, especially if it's a typical working lunch. It would also depend on what you discuss at the lunch, as well. In the end, your employer's information and training on anti-bribery and corruption will help understand what you are permitted to accept or not.

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    I added a statement regarding the anti-bribery policy. As far as the typical costs of lunch in that area go, I would consider it "slightly higher than average". It was also the only time this has happened so far. As far as discussion went, it was mostly a "getting to know each other"-thing, nothing business related. I'll definitely contact HR, though it worries me if they could interpret the delay between when it occured and when I contact them as "me trying to hide something". – Lucas F. Oct 3 '19 at 13:03
  • @LucasF. Yep - I added "or improper" to the post. But what you describe seems fine and normal, at least from me. Part of it would depend on cultural norms where you are, but I don't see anything that would concern me on the surface. – Thomas Owens Oct 3 '19 at 13:05
  • In all honesty, I don't know how normal it's considered to be. At the time it happened, I didn't consider it outlandish and it would have never occured to me that it might be an attempted bribery, given how I am not in any position to influence larger decisions. – Lucas F. Oct 3 '19 at 13:07

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