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Procurement ethics – the dos and don’ts

Working in procurement is a mix of work on your computer (tables, RFQs, comparisons, contracts) and working with people (stakeholders, suppliers and colleagues). In our attempt to get things done, now and then, we will get tempted to go a step further and close our eyes on something that does not feel “right”. And the people around us are not of much help as well. Suppliers will do almost everything to get the sale done. Stakeholders have one thing in their mind, to get what they want. And often they will push for a vendor they know. Sometimes for convenience, sometimes for friendship, and sometimes because of a promised kickback. 

For all of you, who are sometimes asking yourself what to do, here are a couple of rules I live by. 

Things to remember:

  • Read and understand the company policies, rules and operating procedures. Your job is to work according to the rules, not anyone’s (including your own) expectations. 
  • The salesperson is (almost) never your friend. As soon as you change your job, he will forget your name and focus on the next person sitting in your chair.
  • Some people are ready to lie and spread false information if they think they will get some benefit out of this. Unfortunately, you can not see this on their face. Be careful. 
  • If you are aware of any conflict of interest, disclose it in advance. You do not want gossip behind your back when you award the contract to a company where your cousin works. Even though he has nothing to do with the project. 
  • Be aware and very protective of Confidential information. Sometimes you will give them out by mistake during a casual chat. 
  • If it is something very important, ask a colleague to take a look. No matter if he is your peer, boss or subordinate, he may spot something you have not seen. 
  • Trust your gut feeling. If something feels wrong, it very often is. 


So, let us try to fly between all those traps: What to do (and what to avoid):

The don’ts

  • A couple of vendors were used over and over. No matter if you are satisfying the usual mandatory 3-quotes norm, this is not pushing for competition. 
  • Never alter your norms and scoring to give preference to a vendor. You can always recommend the 2nd scored vendor and provide your reasoning. 
  • Don’t take things personally. Sometimes you will find it difficult to deliver bad news to the vendor. But this is not your personal decision. 
  • Never take any data or information home. You may be terminated immediately. The procurement person’s biggest asset is his contacts, which you have already saved on your phone anyway. 

The dos

  • Be a connector between the problem your stakeholder is having and the solution that can resolve the same. 
  • Discuss with your manager if you have any concerns. There is no need to mention names and occurrences, just ask as a general rule. 
  • Be transparent with all stakeholders. Do not try to play “information games” as sooner or later vendors will figure out. 
  • Keep all important discussions in writing. A promise given on the phone is not legally valid
  • Be calm and friendly. In your career, you will go through ups and downs with many vendors. Let them remember you as an approachable and positive person. 
  • Learn and improve. Sales managers are getting 10 hours of training every month on how to sell better. To buy better, you have to do the same. 

Of course, this Is not an exhaustive list.
Please add in the comments any further advice

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