Tuesday, 9 May 2017

With love from your suppliers' mental health

It's Mental health awareness week (#MHAW17), and with that in mind I wrote a postcard yesterday entitled Dear Human Being, with love from your Mental Health

Today I wondered what postcard our suppliers' mental health might write to procurement. After all, we all have mental health, and that includes our suppliers. 

Please note: This is a postcard I'd suggest that is written to the wolves that still exist within procurement, and not to the more enlightened procurement professionals. (A term coined by a group of suppliers at a workshop last year).

Dear Procurement,

I'm sending this postcard because I know your supplier won't. After all, like you they believe it's just the way business is - dog eat dog an all that!

We just wanted you to understand how your actions negatively impact us, and plead to your own sense of humanity to think about the repercussions of those actions. After all, we're human beings like you, not bar codes or robots!

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) suggests that there are six key areas of work that can cause stress, and in turn impact mental health. The six areas are; role, relationships, demands, change, control and support. 

Let's consider the impact you can have on each of these.

Clarity of role is often a given in buyer/supplier relationships. Although there are times when your actions bring up conflict when you ask your supplier representative to take your side against their own organisation. Perhaps an area our own organisations can impact the most, by understanding this will happen, rather than pressuring them about it. Perhaps even championing our staff for being client centric.

The HSE talks of avoiding conflict, and dealing with unacceptable behaviour.

Conflict is often a given in buyer/supplier relationships which means it's up to both parties to understand how to manage their own reaction to conflict, and to understand their style - both the pros and the cons of that style - and on self and others.

Just letting a supplier have it in a rage, and believing your behaviour to be an acceptable reaction to the 'poor' performance you're receiving is unacceptable. So too bullying behaviour, and abuse of your power. Don't leave your humanity at the door - you wouldn't act like that out of the office 5-9 - so why do the rules change 9-5.

If you want to know what it feels like to be on the receiving end of your behaviour, and it is such a great technique for facilitating change, try standing in our shoes for a moment.

And for anyone believing this postcard is aimed at others and not them - you may want to look at the behaviours you've buried your head in the sand about - those behaviours that others see and you deny.

This area includes work load, work patterns and work environment.

It's perhaps the key area where you impact us. For example tenders with questions you'll never assess, short deadlines, deadlines that mean we have to cancel plans, work the weekend and late into the night. Often passing your own ineffective planning and organisation onto us.

Or what about telling us we are in with a chance when we're not! Or setting selection criteria that might as well mean it's useless us responding to you.

Change management is something managed ineffectively in many organisations, and we're not sure procurement is the sole contributor to it done badly. We'd even suggest that it's one area where suppliers impact procurement's mental healthy badly.

Mental health is achieved by having control over the work we do. Procurement has such a huge contribution to make in this area. Output vs input specs being just one of many contractual changes that could be considered that would significantly impact the mental health of those responsible for delivering a service to you.

When did you last say thank you to a supplier, or show them your support? And before that, when did you do it. A thank you can go a long way, and when stressed I'd suggest it can go even further.

We hope something we've said has triggered a thought about how you can behave differently to your suppliers to support their mental health. In turn we will encourage the suppliers to do the same, and to consider you're mental health - after all you are human just like us, and not a bar code or a robot.

With Love from your Suppliers' Mental Health

It's also interesting to consider what behaviours buying and supplying organisations demonstrate that are counter to their own organisational values statements. After all the majority of values statements include openness, honesty, trust and respect - more here. Adoption of these values would certainly support everyone's mental health.

If you like the idea of aspects of yourself writing postcards to you, you might also like my Soft Skills Toolkit where different soft skills have written postcards to you.

The aim of the toolkit is to provide discussion points for personal or group exploration of your soft skills, allowing you to understand what options you have, should you decide to develop a particular soft skill.

There's 2 versions of the toolkit - Dear Procurement, with love from your soft skills aimed at procurement professionals, and Dear Human Being, with love from your soft skills aimed at a wider business audience. They're only £4.99 for personal use, with pricing available on request for organisational use.

Alison Smith
Unlocking personal and organisational potential using unconventional tools
alison@alisonsmith.eu +44(0)7770 538159

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