Friday Rant: Procurement Salary Negotiation, Free Agency, and Old-Fashioned Chutzpah

I heard a story the other day of someone in a large organization -- one that had gone through numerous workforce reduction waves in the past twelve months as well as salary and hiring freezes -- who had the guts to approach his boss about asking for more, not less, based on the results of his team in recent quarters. This gentleman led a large portion of the overall procurement effort for the North American region for his organization, a team that had incrementally saved this large, global company tens, if not hundreds, of millions of dollars from new-sourcing and related cost-reduction efforts. More so, his team had done this in an environment of fewer resources, scarce technology and capital spending, and little or no budget to bring in outside experts. In other words, this was a true success story in a time with virtually no fairy-tale endings to corporate initiatives. And this individual played a key part in making it happen.

He also had the guts to tell his organization that without his leadership and management much of the savings would never have been identified, and fewer -- if any -- cost-reduction dollars would have been implemented (he played a key role in building bridges to those outside the organization to get identified savings to stick). Moreover, he argued, as a result of these efforts he should receive not only additional resources to further his programs throughout the next calendar year, but he should also be compensated, at least in part, according to his efforts and results, not just according to the general, somewhat dismal, financial and revenue performance of the overall company. Some might describe this type of behavior as the essence of chutzpah, a wonderful Hebrew word that Wikipedia suggests can be "used indignantly, to describe someone who has over-stepped the boundaries of accepted behavior with no shame … Chutzpah can be used to express admiration for non-conformist but gutsy audacity."

Now, chutzpah, especially in conservative corporate cultures, is not always welcome. But if you've had a significant material impact on the business and there's a chance to request not only greater budget but also greater remuneration, I know for a fact such behavior has its place. While this person in question is still waiting for a decision on whether or not his overall package will increase next year outside of the currently accepted steps in the company -- perhaps by creating a new official role or title -- the example nonetheless highlights how we can all stand up for what we've done. But the key, as this gentleman knows, is having other options in his back pocket, and knowing that he has a free-agency card should the company not acquiesce to what any rational outsider would view as reasonable. In today's environment, the less loyal you are, the less willing to "take one for the team," the more likely you are to stand out and get what you want, provided you've actually achieved a modicum of excellence and quantifiable returns. In my view, this is a sad reflection on where we are as an overall corporate culture when it comes to rewarding individual performance.

Jason Busch

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