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Monday, 21 January 2019

Time for a new buyer/supplier paradigm?



Funny how thoughts go – I was watching an interview with Oprah and the topic of #Metoo came up. As I was reminded of the behaviours the movement was fighting to eradicate, behaviours such as bullying, disrespect for others, pushing forward even when they’ve said no or the distress the actions are causing is visible, and blackmail (indirect or direct in terms of fear of losing the work/money if behaviours are challenged), I wondered whether business, and procurement were hearing the call for change too.

Can I stand here and say I’ve never shown those behaviours to a supplier – no - however unintentionally and, I hope, however many many years ago.

Can many Procurement departments say they’ve never done this - no.

Can many organisations – no.

You see - to me - bullying is bullying, blackmail is blackmail - the context in which is is taking place doesn’t alter its appropriateness and yet it seems that’s not a belief shared by everyone. “That’s just the way business is” is as prevalent a response to these behaviours today as I’m sure “that’s just the way Hollywood is” or “that’s just men being men for you” was years ago.
  • That’s just the way business is when suppliers fear speaking up, or saying no to unacceptable requests for fear of the repercussions.
  • That’s just the way business is when buyers assume because suppliers aren’t speaking up that they can keep doing what they're doing even though they know it's unacceptable behaviour.
  • That's just the way business is when sourcing send a 100 page tender to 15 suppliers knowing who they want to give the business too.
  • That’s the just way business is when Procurement ask suppliers at 1700 on a Friday for a response at 0900 on a Monday even though it's been on their desk for weeks.
  • That’s just the way business is when …..
In January two years ago I invited us not to leave our humanity at the office door. Then life got in the way and, whilst walking the talk, I didn’t do as much as I could to challenge unacceptable behaviour. Perhaps #metoo has given me the confidence to once again return to this topic and to want to explore with buyers and suppliers alike how we move to a new paradigm for our relationship – one that doesn’t fall back on old stereotypes and abuses of power.

Any thoughts on how to take this dialogue further much appreciated. Perhaps you’re already managing to avoid these behaviours in your organisation – and if so I’d love to hear from you.

I’m certainly looking forward to an event being hosted at the Fire Starter festival on kindness in procurement which is a start. Although 4 years ago I was saddened to hear even kindness was thought to be counter to how business is!

Alison Smith
The Purchasing Coach
Inspiring change inside and out

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