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Help! I hate my supplier!

By June 2, 2021July 30th, 2021No Comments

Let’s start by exploring that feeling… why do you hate the supplier? Or, for that matter, why do you love another supplier? It sounds like tough stuff, but procurement is not an emotional business. We are not in the business of love or hate. We are in the business of performance or non-performance. Innovation and replacement.

If your supplier is not performing, put them on ‘probation’ and replace them if you must. But that doesn’t justify hate. If the supplier is being held on through some kind of sweetheart deal or ‘friends and family’ relationship with someone else in your company, report it to the highest level you can without doing damage to your own career or procurement’s reputation. If you really can’t get past your issues with the supplier, see if someone else in procurement can take on the relationship. If you are emotionally involved, you’re not going to be able to do your best work. It is your responsibility to flag that and step away.

But I don’t think we’re done probing your angry inner procurement child. Stop and think – do you really hate the supplier?

Maybe what you are saying is that you love or hate your supplier rep. Again, we’re back to why. Do they annoy you? Challenge you? Are they unprofessional? Or do they please you by telling you what you want to hear? Do they take you out for dinner and invite you to their charity golf tournaments? The funny thing about this scenario is that a supplier rep you love is far more dangerous than a supplier rep you hate. Be suspicious of both.

How do you prepare for a meeting with a supplier you hate? 

The answer to this question is tough love. You are a professional. And what does it mean to be professional? I’m afraid that professional pride is something that has fallen by the wayside these days. (I’m not just blaming COVID and your ‘pajama pants on the bottom’ Zoom-day wardrobe.) We were sliding down a slippery slope of self-indulgent unprofessionalism long before the pandemic arrived.

You’re not on the payroll to make friends, inside or outside of the organization. If you do, wonderful – as long as it doesn’t interfere with your professional responsibilities. That is a perk, not an expectation.

Old time professionalism is far harder than it sounds. But it exists for a reason. Here are some examples.

  • You will look every person you meet in the eye and greet them courteously and pleasantly. You will smile, maintain eye contact, and pay attention during meetings.
  • You will be on time for every meeting and you will arrive prepared. If you are late, you will apologize like you mean it – because you do mean it.
  • While the other person is talking, you will listen. You can take notes, but you will not check your phone or look at your watch. You will be where you are.
  • If you have next steps from the meeting, you will get them done on time. You will do your best work.
  • Regardless of what else is going on in your life, you will do your job. If you can’t do your job, you will call out sick and respectfully reschedule. 
  • And yes… if you have video calls, you will dress appropriately. You don’t have to wear your pearls or put on a tie, but you do have to look presentable (and CLEAN – I can’t believe I have to say that, but I do). You will sit up straight and give some thought to your background. Again, it doesn’t have to be a ballroom back there, but it can’t be a distraction either.

The fact of the matter is, if you follow expectations like these, you’ll feel too serious to hate anybody. And don’t think you can’t be serious and pleasant at the same time. Lots of very successful people do it every day.

The last piece of this that I feel compelled to address is back to the question of why you might hate your supplier. There is no deal size that justifies accepting abusive or unprofessional behavior. Your supplier owes you every bit as much respect as you show them through your professionalism. 

Here are the things you should not accept:

  • Swearing
  • Lying
  • Insults
  • Deliberately end-running procurement
  • Being repeatedly ghosted for meetings or deliverables

The worst thing you can do is limp along hating your supplier. Move them, replace them, get a new rep, reassign yourself. Find a solution. But in the short term, for that upcoming meeting you are dreading: you will do your work, comb your hair, take a deep breath, smile, and start the meeting on time.

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