The Difference Between Gifts and Bribes

By Tammy Bong|12-02-2019 | 2 Min Read

Gift-giving in the corporate setting is a regular occurrence in Malaysia, especially during major festive seasons such as Chinese New Year, Hari Raya Aidilfitri, Deepavali and Christmas.

It’s considered normal and for many organisations, the act of giving items such as hampers or gift baskets to clients is just a courtesy gesture with the intention of building and maintaining good working relationships.

However, giving such gifts and other tokens can sometimes be easily misconstrued as giving bribes. How then, can one tell if a gift is just a gift or if it is actually a bribe?

Trident Integrity Solutions Sdn Bhd chief executive officer, Dr Mark Lovatt says that a huge factor is the intention behind the gift.

One question to consider is this: is this act of giving done purely for the sake of doing something nice to maintain the client relationship, or is there a hidden meaning behind it?

He adds that some organisations like to take advantage of this harmless act of goodwill and manipulate it for their own benefit by giving large amounts of cash, electronic devices and even holiday vouchers.

Check out:Whistleblowing In Organisations

According to Dr Lovatt, monetary value is usually the key to distinguish what sort of tokens and gifts an organisation may give without it being perceived as a bribe.

He elaborates, saying that to some extent, it is also how the recipient handles the gift that reflects its intention.

For example, if a hamper is given publicly and its contents shared among all employees, then it is not considered a bribe, as compared to a secret gift that only the manager receives.

Dr Lovatt also shares how some companies create policies on giving and receiving gifts to ensure there are no misunderstandings, for example:

  • Having a ‘no gift’ policy
  • Placing restrictions on gifts that can be accepted, such as a maximum value
  • Storing received gifts in a public area and allowing employees to take them freely


As gift-giving is a large part of the Malaysian culture and is definitely here to stay, organisations should be transparent about the gifts received to reduce bribery and avoid genuine gifts being perceived the wrong way.

Watch the video here:

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Tags: Companies, Values

Tammy is formerly an intern with Leaderonomics. She enjoys connecting and building relationships with others. Her passion for social media and curating content has led her to pursue her dreams in the digital marketing industry. Other than that, she also runs her own online Instagram-based store selling women clothes and accessories as a hobby. In her free time, she enjoys journaling and binge-watching Korean dramas.
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