I just sat through a meeting knowing that I’m getting screwed. On the surface I’m being told that everyone must meet new standards and bear the responsibility for carrying them out. These standards were developed in conjunction with the large suppliers to a hospital I serve. I had no input at all. The large suppliers can easily meet the new standards. I’m a very small company–a mom and pop shop. We deliver the same product, but while the large suppliers can easily manage to meet the additional requirements, I can’t. I don’t know if the administrators are deliberately trying to squeeze out the little guys like us or whether they have no idea about the power squeeze tactics I see. How can I get the hospital administrators to listen to me?
In this case my first question is, “Why should they listen to you?” Hospital administrators, like everyone else, first tune in to WIIFM: What’s In It For Me? But I’m going to turn to my business ethics colleague Laurie Weiss, PhD, for her thoughts:
There could be a good reason for them to listen–or you could just be trying to play in a league where you no longer belong.
Good reasons could be:
- They have a stated policy of using small suppliers and they are now violating their own policies;
- The new standards don’t contribute anything to the effective delivery of the service and actually add a layer of unnecessary complexity;
- Maintaining relationships with large and small suppliers gives the administrators flexibility they need;
- You have a long-standing relationship with them that they consider valuable.
A poor reason would be that they aren’t being fair to you. While their interests and yours have been complementary up until now, business needs do change and some businesses do lose out. If this is the case for you, it’s time to start looking at new opportunities.
So, in order to get any administrators to listen to you, you need to approach them thinking about their best interests. Hopefully, their interests and yours actually are complementary.
If you already have rapport with one administrator — rather than “the administrators” — approach that person and ask for a private meeting to clarify your situation.
Start your conversation by referring to the reason you think it’s important for the hospital to learn about the (possibly) unintended consequences of the new policy. Ask if she is aware of those unintended consequences.
If she has not thought things through, you can help the administrator to do so. If she tells you they know and don’t care about the impact on you, all you can do is refer to one of the “good” reasons that might cause them to reconsider.
This situation may really be outside of your control. If it turns out to be that way, your best move might be to ask the administrator for suggestions about other ways you can serve the institution. Be prepared to retreat gracefully. Good luck.
Learn more in The Integrity Course, an online, multimedia course to help you say what you think without getting fired or losing your friends. Laurie Weiss, Ph.D., is an internationally-known executive coach, psychotherapist, and author.