How to Protect your Boundaries When Your Procurement Team is Struggling

Does this situation sound familiar to you? A fellow team member asks for your help to draft a plan to generate category insights. They’ve asked you because you’ve done it many times before and they value your input. It won’t take you long, so you say yes.

Then another colleague asks if you can review their pricing strategy. It’s a tricky one, and they need a fresh pair of eyes. Sure, you think, after all you want to be seen as a team player and you know how much pressure your team is under at the moment. Including you.

Being the go-to-guy or -girl, the ultimate team player is great when it works. But then it doesn’t and you find yourself feeling completely overwhelmed and, ultimately, burned out. It’s one thing to be a team player, but another entirely to try to help everyone who is struggling to the detriment of your own performance, or even your mental health.

What you need are boundaries, but they can be notoriously hard to negotiate. Here’s how to establish (and protect) your boundaries in this type of challenging situation.

Step 1: Define Clear Expectations

If you’ve been working in the same procurement team for a while, it may seem crazy to take a step back and set expectations of what is required of whom. In fact, this is an essential first step when it comes to setting and protecting your boundaries. 

It’s important to consider what everyone’s role and responsibilities actually are, and set timelines for the various tasks that need to be completed. For example, if category insights are needed, what is achievable and realistic right now, and what categories might need to be prioritised? 

When trying to define expectations, ensure that you check in with your procurement leader, and, if possible, against your procurement strategic plan, to ensure that you are setting the right expectations. 

Step 2: Communicate Openly and with Empathy

Have you ever found yourself snapping at someone in your procurement team when you’re under pressure, only to regret it a couple of days later? It’s the same for everyone – when we’re stressed, we tend to communicate less effectively. 

When your team is struggling and you’re trying to set your own boundaries, it’s important to communicate well. Good communication in this situation means being open  about your workload and priorities – as well as your limitations – while at the same time being empathetic to other people’s situations.
Although this may feel difficult – especially if you have to tell your boss you simply have too much work to do – being upfront is a far better approach than drowning in work and not delivering.

Step 3: Prioritise Self-Care

When the going gets tough, it’s easy to put your head down to do more work, neglecting your self-care. However, plenty of studies show that when we neglect ourselves, we aren’t working productively anyway. 

Prioritising self-care when a whole team is struggling means setting limits on working hours. It might feel difficult to be “that person” who leaves the office when others are working late, or has to drop everything to get the kids/help your family/make time for yourself, but it’s important to strike a balance. You could also gently encourage those around you to also set limits on their hours, so you feel more comfortable doing so. 

One method of doing this is to disconnect, not checking work emails first thing in the morning, or after you’ve clocked off for the evening.

Step 4: Delegate and Seek Support

If you’re a procurement professional with high standards (and let’s be honest, that’s most of us), it’s tempting to want to do everything perfectly. Although perfectionism sounds, on the surface, like a good trait, it can definitely hold us back in our careers. 

If your procurement team is struggling, now is definitely not the time for perfectionism. In fact, it’s critical that you delegate and seek as much support as possible. This may come in many forms: perhaps other departments can help, or you can look into hiring additional resources.

Step 5: Learn How to Say No

Protecting boundaries sounds all well and good – until you realise that a big part of it is learning how to say no. This can be one of the most challenging things you do at work, but it’s essential. 

Remember, there are many ways to say no, and not all of them are as abrupt as you might imagine. If you’re at capacity with your workload, try saying that you’d love to help but can’t prioritise doing so until a certain time in the future. Or that you think another colleague might be better placed to do a good job of it right now. 

When you’re working in a busy procurement team, boundaries may cause you to feel as if you’re not a team player. However, establishing and maintaining these boundaries will help you manage a healthy workload, allowing you to continue contributing effectively to your team now and in the future.

How do you build and protect your boundaries at work? Let us know in the comments below.