How to respectfully disagree with your procurement colleague

When it comes to all things procurement, let’s be honest: there are a lot of things we might respectfully disagree on. For example, whether or not some procurement processes are due for an overhaul, or whether or not there is such a thing as a bad procurement boss. But disagreement isn’t necessarily a bad thing, and the different schools of thought on important topics in our profession can make things interesting – and sometimes even bring about positive change. 

respectfully disagree procurement colleague

Disagreement can be a bad thing, though, when it damages your working relationships, either within your own procurement team, or with your most important stakeholders. And sometimes, certain people just don’t take too kindly to being disagreed with. It can be an absolute minefield trying to navigate discussions with them. 

So when disagreement is necessary (which it often is), here’s how to strategically and respectfully do so with your colleagues: 

1. Start off by listening openly 

Imagine this situation. You’ve spent weeks setting up a successful RFQ, and you’ve been meticulously managing all suppliers involved. Your extremely thorough processes have pointed to one particular supplier representing the best value for your organisation in every single way. 

Then, a new senior manager is hired in the area of the business you’re working with. They immediately demand that the business uses the supplier they’ve been working with for years – without even asking about an RFQ. 

In situations like these, it’s tempting to simply want to ignore the demands of your new stakeholder, and instead explain why your process (and your result) is the best one. 

But before you do, make sure you listen. Even if a stakeholder has circumvented your process, there may still be merit in their choice. But you won’t know if you don’t hear them out first. 

Should you wish to continue to disagree with them, then listening needs to be the first step. This way you can acknowledge their point of view and ensure that you’re open to listening to new and different ideas. 

2. Keep your disagreements impersonal 

When you’re disagreeing with someone (or they are disagreeing with you), it can sometimes feel like a personal attack. The disagreement can feel as if you’re saying you don’t like them, or they don’t know what they’re doing, or they aren’t as qualified or experienced as they should be. 

Insinuating any of these things in a disagreement is a sure-fire way to sever relationships fast, and damage your personal brand within your organisation. 

In order to avoid doing this, there are a few things you can do when articulating your disagreement: 

  • Avoid using the word ‘you’. For example, instead of ‘You have circumvented our processes’, say instead ‘Procurement typically has a process for managing suppliers, which includes XYZ’
  • Articulate your disagreement without an emotional response. For example, instead of saying ‘Circumventing our process makes us feel redundant and useless’, say instead ‘Our RFQ process can add value in XYZ ways.’ 

When disagreeing, ensure you stay professional, and don’t attack, name-call, or make demands of your colleagues or stakeholders. Instead, include facts and data, lean on the benefits not the negatives, and remain calm. 

3. Find a common goal 

Disagreements can sometimes seem like an almost daily occurrence within procurement everywhere. But the thing that is most important to remember, whether inside your team or with your stakeholders, is that you all share the same goal, and that is, to add value to your organisation. 

With this in mind, ensure that when disagreeing with someone, you work through your common goals and interests together. 

In the case of the new stakeholder above, it is in your best interests – as well as theirs – to choose the best supplier for the business. Try to work backwards from that position to figure out how to best work together to reach that goal, even if it isn’t in the way that you first envisioned. 

What are your tips for respectfully disagreeing with others within your procurement team, and also within your broader organisation? What hasn’t worked for you in the past? Let us know in the comments below. 

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