[Blog 27] The Chief Guru Chronicles 103: Avoid The Sharks, Swim With The Fishes

Picture this: You are an established company seeking opportunities to expand your operations in an ideal climate for your business. Under you radar is a foreign land reputable for its flourishing economy, yet one perceived to be one of the most corrupt countries on the Corruption Perceptions Index. Despite having this knowledge in mind, you are eager to acquire your client so you set up a meeting to dive straight into the tendering process in order to secure and retain a lucrative contract. When you present what you have to offer to the interested party, he seems utterly displeased and goes on to unashamedly suggest an arrangement that is awfully fraudulent. You try your best to engage them in a fair procurement by negotiating another deal but instead, you are met with blatant hostility. With no room for further compromise, the deal is immediately cut off and the client storms off—but not before he shatters some glass bottles in a startling act of rage. Does this scenario feel all too familiar?

Setting out on business ventures in countries that are notoriously known for corrupt practices and shady deals means you will be more susceptible to running afoul of local or home-country laws. In economies with low scores on the Corruption Perceptions Index such as Russia, China and Mexico, bribes still grease the wheels and it is common for money or illegal favours to be expected in return for providing necessary approvals. This issue of endemic corruption fuels social inequality and continues to permeate throughout the world—in public sectors, from the lowest bureaucrat to the presidential palace; and in the course of day-to-day business matters in cultures that prides itself on ‘guanxi’ or relationships.

This serves as a reminder for corporations as to why anti-corruption and bribery policies need to pushed to the forefront of the business agenda. Running a business in the age of globalisation also means that companies need to have sufficient knowledge and awareness to identify the risk profiles in varying sectors and geographical locations. Developing policies to counter bribery and corruption risks are only half as important as enforcing compliance through all levels of the organisation. In fact, it is crucial for the policies to roll out in a way that employees are able to fully comprehend their impact and significance, a feat that seems to be challenge for many companies out there.

A company’s human resource team plays an immense role in ensuring that employees are familiar with compliance procedures so they are capable of proactively managing and anticipating risks of market norms. Great emphasis has to be placed on zero tolerance to corrupt practices, even under immense pressure to perform and produce numbers for the benefit of the company.

While it is not commercially feasible to dodge and steer clear of graft-prone markets, your principles, values and integrity should never be compromised and put on the line for the sake of acquiring a competitive age in an uneven playing field. How you decide to navigate the ebb and flow lies in the moral compass of your corporate governance because deep down, we all know that the answer to gaining the trust of your customers and partners is through clean and transparent practices; not through hollow opportunities that hide behind deceit.

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This article is part of a series of accounts of The Chief Guru Chronicles, a monthly column which recounts our Founder & Chief Guru Tommy Ng’s experience and encounters in HR management across various countries and industries. The purpose of this column is to provide helpful information on the subjects discussed, and to educate readers through challenges experienced. It should not be perceived and used as a professional advice. Any views or opinions are not intended to malign any religion, races, ethnic group, organisation, company, individual or country. In addition, we do not make any warranties about the completeness, reliability and accuracy of the information. As a disclosure, some names, information and situations were intentionally concealed or edited in order to protect the identity of the involved parties. Except as expressly consented, the contents may not be reproduced, transmitted, or distributed without HR Guru Pte Ltd permission.