Gratitude or bribe? Attitude or Crime?

You may not use bribes to get what you want! 

That is the essence in many FCPA (Foreign Corruption Protection Act) that all immigration and relocation agencies sign as part of the contractual agreements with US and UK firms in particular. Also, to get paid by US companies a W8 and W9 form is also required and there you have to state whether you are related to a public official and therefore can be suspected of taking bribes. It’s a source of friction when landlords renting their properties to ex-pats have to sign this if they have a brother-in-law that is a public official.  

Yet, there’s a huge difference between a bribe, “facilitation money” and a gesture of gratitude for a service rendered or a good collaboration. It’s also important to know what and when a gift is appropriate. It’s also culturally diverse. 

I’m not talking about money exchanging hands in dark alleys by fictional people wearing strange hats. Immigration professionals and relocation experts mostly agree that not having to resort to bribing public officials is good. Nor do we ever engage in dubious practices to be successful in delivering solutions as it’s part of the Nordic European culture not to do so. 

In spite of actual bribes not being common, or at least not to my knowledge, in the Swedish employment-based immigration field, showing gratitude is still part of a pleasant transaction. 

Please and thank you go a long way! 

It’s far more satisfying to help someone that says thank you. Even if it’s your job. 

We get a lot of questions about anything under the sun. I have 39600 emails/year to prove it. Many of these queries come from the same people. I enjoy answering them a great deal more if I get a Thank You for my time, expertise and care. 

Many years ago, I had lunch with a client prospect, and we had really inspiring discussions and I learned many things from her. When I offered to pay the bill she became uncomfortable since she felt that it could be construed as a bribe. Nothing could have been further from my mind and I very directly said that I had more faith in her integrity than that a small lunch would sway her in any way. It was a long time ago and I was yet unaware of all the policies in regards to corruption. I was naivëly unaware that such a policy was needed. 

For all the obvious reasons we don’t use bribes to get favors, business, or jump the line at different government agencies. However, we used to send out Christmas gifts to our client contacts. 

We wanted to express gratitude to our HR partners for multiple reasons. We know that they often respond to us on weekends and on holidays because the main period of ex-pat moves to Sweden happens during the summers which collides with schools being closed and most try to have time off. HR and Global Mobility Experts often don’t get the appreciation they deserve from colleagues since the work they do is enormous and no one knows about it unless something goes wrong. We wanted to be part of the ones that acknowledged the enormous effort that goes into a great welcome of foreign talent. 

The small gifts were usually an Easter egg or a Christmas ornament, yet we don’t do it out of consideration for their compliance with internal policies. Most of them are HR and often do not get fancy lunches, dinners, or gifts from anyone. We wanted to show them an appreciation for working well with us and for the ones that weren’t the most pleasant we hoped it would encourage some positivity. We no longer do it out of consideration so we don’t put them in an uncomfortable situation. 

Yet, I would like to stress that policies and fear of misconduct shouldn’t take away the possibility to show gratitude. 

How can we take back the positivity of gratitude without committing a crime? 

One way is to take back the control of gratitude and being thankful. Showing appreciation for a job well done is not illegal. Showing appreciation and thanks to a client that helps us help them is also not illegal although it can’t be in the form of presents or gift cards.  

We turned the table in gratitude to where it’s possible to give someone a gift! 

In fact, having business friends and partners and good collaboration is the very foundation for how we can provide our clients with good services is essential. We also have suppliers that help us keep our IT safe, our office clean, our documents translated, and other things that smoothen the ride for us when we work and thus help us serve our clients. We have housing agents, moving companies, and other services that help our relocating clients make their move to Sweden a smooth one.

For that we are grateful! 

Therefore, we usually give a Christmas gift to our suppliers, business friends, and our ecosystem that support us in a variety of ways. 

Why do we do this? 

  • They help us do great work
  • It cannot be considered a bribe
  • It makes sense to acknowledge the importance of the relationship 
  • Our employees and employees children appreciate the Easter egg and Christmas candy

Gratitude is attitude and we cultivate that internally and externally every day with or without gifts! We even have Gratitude Thursdays when we do a round of what we are grateful for. 

You can never expect us to cross the line and bribe anyone – we wouldn’t know how. 

That said, it’s cultural how you make payments and remuneration models. In some professions, sales, for instance, you get a bonus for a job well done. In some cultures, gift-giving is an important part of an exchange, and not bringing something is impolite and a sign that you didn’t understand the transaction. A policy that prevents small token gifts may simply not be possible and maintain good relations in some countries. We notice that some of our clients always come carrying gifts, tea bags, chocolate, champagne, or a notebook. We say thank knowing that the gift giver is more comfortable with the transaction if they can show appreciation. 

Handwritten cards and flowers when a risk application has been approved are also appreciated Thank You’s! Cultivating a generous gratitude attitude is helpful for everyone. 

To help your ex-pats feel comfortable in the Swedish worklife we have created the Professional Inspiration program to help them feel at home and prepare for their move. The program is complimentary for all our clients and that is not a bribe, it’s just plain “Sharing is Caring” it’s in each client’s introduction email.

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