Guest Friday Rant: On Losing Perspective & Respect (Part 1)

This guest rant today is a contribution from an individual who is deeply involved in the procurement industry. The second installment, next week, will be a follow-up examining additional supplier/vendor management issues involving this situation, based on a discussion Spend Matters had with the writer -- who will need to remain anonymous.

At the beginning of summer, I had a run in with a close colleague, an executive and co-worker in this market. The individual, who will go unnamed, had truly reached a new low, going beyond not having the gumption to stand up for what she believed in with her superiors. She had become a political tour de force, approaching each and every situation with a philosophy focused not on what was right for her organization or her peers, partners and team inside and outside of it, but only her career.

The breaking point in our professional relationship arose from an incident where she cared so much about the appearance of a particular situation, and put forth a common group-think to her management, that she attempted to squash any dissension within her team and externally, including input from suppliers. Those who disagreed with her approach and view, including a vendor, were sacrificed along the way.

The genesis of this sacrifice was the most disconcerting part of the saga. It went back a number of years to her somewhat awkward relationship with management as an outsider who was never accepted into the inner circle of her company (but was close to being compensated like she was). This constantly gnawed at her, and over the years she increasingly felt the need to not only agree with her superiors on points which she originally knew at heart were incorrect, but to eventually convince herself to pick the opinion on a given issue that would be theirs. In other words, she attempted to read their minds ahead of time and assume a viewpoint and stance not based on her managerial or instinctive gut, but how her superiors would perceive a situation.

The sad part about the situation was not the symptom/behavior, but the underlying malady; this individual had largely priced herself out of the market, and she knew it. She also knew she did not have the qualifications to leave her area and run a broader supply chain, P&L, etc. Wooed with a high comp package to join the company, she came to realize that she would have a difficult time making a comparable amount elsewhere. She increasingly assumed a defensive posture internally to preserve what she had. Salary and lifestyle became more important than ideas and vision, beginning with "kissing up" to superiors and eventually leading to presenting ideas not based on what was right for suppliers, customers and shareholders, but on preserving her role and standing with the board and management. This was all seemingly motivated by a desperate need to preserve her image of staying in lock step with the brass.

While this individual has succeeded in making a handful of senior ranking friends in the company as a result of her efforts, the best members of her team, along with a long-term strategic supplier and partner, have lost respect for her as she sacrificed the domain of creative process to the scourge of company politics. She alienated and shunned those around her who disagreed with anything she thought her direct managers would take issue with. She has become their person, not her own, losing her identity in the process.

I've sufficiently described my loss of respect for this past friend and close colleague. We all possess our own complex personal range of values that guide our core behavior. Jason's recent writings regarding new alignments at Spend Matters motivated me to offer these observations in the hope that we might all stand back from time to time and critically assess our professional goals and the honesty with which we are pursuing them, along with what's working and what's not. And then muster the grit and backbone required to alter our course when needed.

Check back for the continuation of this guest essay next week. The second part of this rant focuses on the procurement and supplier management implications when a senior manager in an organization sacrifices their own beliefs for personal gain and a false sense of self-preservation.

Jason Busch

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