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I am an independent software contractor for an IT company and a lead for a small team. All the team members are contractors as well and we're pretty friendly bunch. We go out sometimes for drinks or simply eat together but yesterday one of my colleagues brought me a bottle of whyskey when came back from a vacation. It costs somewhere around £35 (or $46) and I am not sure how should I behave.

Although I helped my colleague on many occasions, even with some tips how to be a contractor, I am bit puzzled with the situation. I am a team lead and if I accept this bottle is it ethical?

If it would be someone that I could consider a friend outside work I wouldn't have to think too much about it but in this situation I am a bit lost.

  • I work as contractor through my own company so I am my own employer. And my employer tries to figure out now how to behave :). – shadox Dec 10 '19 at 12:29
  • They're probably just preparing for April when you'll be their boss :-) – JMK Dec 11 '19 at 16:43
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Although I helped my colleague on many occasions, even with some tips how to be a contractor, I am bit puzzled with the situation. I am a team lead and if I accept this bottle is it ethical?

Since you indicate that you are an independent contractor (i.e., you are self-employed), you don't need to worry about violating any employer's rules.

Many contracting companies make their contractors follow most of the policies of the company where they work. So you may wish to check the Employee Handbook of the company where you are currently working, and follow that policy.

And if you, as the lead, have any influence over the hiring of the other contractors, it may not be a good idea to accept gifts from them.

Other than that, it's just a personal decision. You get to decide based on your personal ethics.

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I would ordinally say it wouldn't be an issue, but I can see where the problem may lie with contractors as they may be looking to get on your good side to get an extension.

For me, as a permie (but also a team lead) I would use it to share around with everyone else after work as a Christmas celebration and thank the contractor by name for the gift.

That way you get to enjoy the gift (as was their intention) but also other people do too, so your employer/company is satisfied you haven't been bribed and the contractor is personally offended that you've rejected their gift.

Plus everyone gets a nice drink to close off the year :-)

  • I was thinking to do the same but it also sounds like I have accepted the gift and just shared it with everyone instead. Oh, it's tricky :). – shadox Dec 10 '19 at 9:49
  • There's nothing wrong with accepting a gift in itself, the only potential problem is how people perceive you accepting the gift and what it may imply. With sharing it you quash the theories, in my mind. – Jay Gould Dec 10 '19 at 9:50
  • Well, I have no control over extensions being a contractor myself. It is true that I have some influence due to seniority and a history of a good work but no formal power over that. – shadox Dec 10 '19 at 12:28
  • What about down to a recommendation level? Would you be asked if someone should be kept on? – Jay Gould Dec 10 '19 at 12:32
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    Is there a "not" missing from and the contractor is personally offended? – Andrew Morton Dec 10 '19 at 18:53
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Usually, it's expected (and generally accepted) that gifts will flow down the hierarchy (superior to members). When it's the other way around - which is this case (a team member to a team lead), you need to be a little more careful.

Check your company handbook, if you have one (i.e., applicable for you). In most of the cases, there's a cap (limit) imposed on the monetary value of the gift which can be presented / accepted.

  • If the value is within the limit, you're OK to accept it.
  • If it is beyond the prescribed limit, I'd advise to politely ask the college to present the bottle to the team (not to you as an individual) as a souvenir of the tour, and as a lead, you can do the honor to open the bottle and share it with the team outside the work.

That being said, I'd second the proposal made by made by Jay Gould in the other answer, either way, share it with the team, that way you're going the extra mile to show that you choose the team over any individual, including yourself.

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    Very valid point, rather than accepting the gift personally and then sharing, asking the contractor to give the gift to the team directly completely elimenates the issue of potential bribery. Great answer. – Jay Gould Dec 10 '19 at 11:12
  • Not sure that suggesting drinking on the job is the best solution. For other gifts, sharing may work well but this one is tougher. – cdkMoose Dec 10 '19 at 15:48
  • @cdkMoose I made it explicit to not to offer drinks while at work, – Sourav Ghosh Dec 10 '19 at 15:54
  • Having a sip of whyskey on Friday evening is considered OK in all software companies I have worked until today (all EU contries). Unless you're in a country in which is considered inappropriate, or in a business that is very old school and extra policies - it should be fine. – shadox Dec 11 '19 at 10:22
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I'd say it's definitly not unethical since it's not a client or an outside contractor that presented the gift to you, so it couldn't be perceived as bribery but you could check your company policies regarding 'gifts' within the team, especially in regards to being gifted from subordinates.

Since you state:

All the team members are contractors as well and we're pretty friendly bunch

I guess the context you received the gift is due to being friendly and helpful with each other in that team and the gift doesn't exceed two digits in worth I'd say you enjoy it all together as @Jay already mentioned - but after work ;)

  • OP received a gift from a subordinate. That could be problematic in some cultures. I'd say definitely check the company handbook. – jcm Dec 10 '19 at 11:04
  • @jcm Good point, I'll edit my answer ;) – iLuvLogix Dec 10 '19 at 11:06

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