How to Deal with Constantly Feeling Overwhelmed in Procurement

Read about the ways to get on top of feeling overwhelmed, and take control of your procurement day-to-day workflow!

It can easily happen to procurement pros.  We’ve all been there. A catch up with friends or dinner with the family where you inevitably get asked, “so, how is work going?” 

Have you ever said, “yep fine, all good, same old, very busy,” but what you’re really thinking is, “I’m at maximum capacity and I’m dealing with complex issues that I can’t even begin to describe.”

It can be a few moments of hesitation, a stumble over an answer or dealing with multiple deadlines and serious contracting issues. The world of a procurement pro is tricky, and if your balance gets out of whack, that’s where burnout can start to creep in.

Procurement and being overwhelmed: the unwanted toxic relationship

Why is it that procurement and feeling overwhelmed seem to go hand in hand? Here are a few reasons that spring to mind:

  • Juggling multiple projects often in differing areas of expertise or disciplines in which we may not be an expert 
  • Operating in a demand driven environment that can feel like you are constantly reacting and putting out fires
  • High risk and high value leads to high stakes – procurement pros need to safeguard the organisation, their client and the future success of the contract(s)
  • The industry is full of jargon, it has a language of its own! There are so many different technical aspects to learn!
  • Procurement can be the face of change, leading large roll-outs or implementations. Interfacing with stakeholders, customers and clients can leave you in the firing line.

Procurement pros can’t just go out and purchase a P2P system and automate processes overnight; it would be great to replace some aspects of the role with a bot, but it’s usually not an immediate option or long term solution.

Defining burnout

Sometimes being in procurement feels like the perfect melting pot that if left unmanaged, can bubble over. The World Health Organisation (WHO) defines burnout as a syndrome resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed. 

According to the WHO, symptoms of burnout include:

  • Feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion
  • Increased mental distance from one’s job, or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one’s job
  • Reduced professional efficacy (can also be described as a low sense of personal accomplishment)

Help is on hand!

Never fear, you can climb out of this situation and  deploy some tricks. The key to beginning the ascent out of the burnout hole is to learn to be prepared for surprises. If you have the right mindset you may begin to feel more ready when the unexpected happens.

You can begin by following leading procurement influencer Kelly Barner’s advice and start changing the way you engage with the people in your role. Begin with thinking of surprises as potential opportunities. The power of the reframe can really help to shift mindsets. When that unexpected phone call or email drops in, Kelly also suggests:

  1. Stop and think. Don’t be in a rush to blurt out an answer.
  2. You don’t need to have all the answers: it’s ok to say, “I don’t know”.
  3. Manage expectations by communicating a range of options – don’t focus on one  ‘right’ answer, as there are always different approaches that may be applicable to a given circumstance
  4. Remember to be kind to people and have empathy

The longer term game

To build your resilience muscle, follow the REVAMP model, developed by leading positive psychologist Jordyn Feingold. This is a proven model building upon decades of humanistic and positive psychology research.

Relationships: are an important part of life satisfaction and this includes our relationship with ourselves. Think: who do I surround myself with and how do I treat myself?

Engagement: is about finding your flow in the work environment as much as possible. This includes embracing mindfulness techniques such as a stress reduction strategy. The aim is to be more present, and this can help increase our quality of life overall as we are more aware of what and who we are engaging with. 

Vitality: Keeping your physical health, sleep, nutrition, relaxation and enjoyment activities front of mind. These are proven areas that help to promote resilience. Action: check in with yourself about these areas of your life, and ask yourself, “is the balance right?”

Accomplishment: Life is not a zero-sum game.  As procurement professionals, it’s easy to fall into the trap of working hard, and it can sometimes feel like we need to compete with our peers to succeed. It’s important for career sustainability to shift from competition mode to collaboration mode, which also helps to keep our vitality levels up.

Meaning: is about connecting with people and things in life that give us a sense of purpose and meaning, which is a sure-fire way to enhance our experience and build empathy. Action: take a  character strengths survey and understand your values. After all, you can’t expect to connect with others well if you don’t know yourself and what makes you tick.

Positive emotions: Keep your head above the water, and your positive energy strong.

Your checklist

  1. Check your own mental health / energy levels and talk to people for help when needed
  1. Check your organisation and productivity methods and see if you can improve the workflow of tasks in your day, to help relieve the initial overload.
  1. Take a fresh look at your role; is there anything you need to change?

Procurement can be a highly stressful and complex environment, but there’s no doubt that it can also be rewarding and exhilarating. Ensure you take care of yourself to ride the waves and come out the other side a winner.

How are you feeling about your procurement workflow at the moment? Let us know in our survey, What Next?, produced in conjunction with Compleat Software.