Back in January, I blogged about “the possibility of the U.S. economy overheating in 2018.”

Well, the economy has definitely been hot this year.  Has it “overheated?”  I’m not sure where the actual boil-over point is, but there’s no doubt that businesses – likely including many of your suppliers – have been struggling to find adequate talent for their teams.

Heck, even Walmart – long known for compensating workers at bare minimum levels – is advertising jobs in my town starting at a wage no lower than $11/hour.  That’s voluntarily more than 50% above the federal minimum wage that many have protested to have raised.  Employers are having trouble just finding people, let alone good people, for their job vacancies.

What should scare you in procurement is that, right now, your suppliers are probably forced to hire stupid people who will mess up your orders just to have warm bodies doing some degree of work.

Are my words “stupid people” unnecessarily rough?  Probably.  But, as I think of some basic capabilities that people working in today’s economy lack, it’s hard for me to be kinder.

I’m not talking about the valiant employers who, with social responsibility in their hearts, hire people with disabilities.  That’s wonderful.  I’m talking about employers who hire under-qualified people for jobs that would normally be considered “above their pay grade.”

Perhaps it would be helpful for me to explain some criteria that I subconsciously use in arriving at the conclusion that a person in a responsible business position (like anyone who has to interface with a customer’s procurement team or a procurement person him/herself) is “stupid.”

  • The person makes frequent spelling and/or grammatical errors in speech and/or writing, but doesn’t notice and doesn’t really know “the rules” well enough to comply with them anyway
  • The person struggles with basic mathematical calculations, like calculating a new price when s/he knows only the original price and the discount percentage
  • The person would cringe if presented with the idea of being intellectually compared to someone who has the same job as her/him in a different company because s/he knows s/he isn’t as smart or skilled
  • Until the currently hot economy took hold, the person had a hard time getting and/or holding onto jobs for more than a year or two
  • The person knows only a small fraction of what there is to know about his/her profession and hasn’t done much to close the gap
  • The person could have never objectively been told by a third party that s/he is great at what s/he does
  • If the person is a leader, the person has had a hard time achieving the same measurable results as his/her predecessor, even though s/he is leading the exact same company, department and/or people

There are two reactions I expect to this criteria:  “You are so right – I have the displeasure of dealing with people like this all the time” or “What a jerk this writer is – some of those criteria apply to me but I’m not stupid.”

Look, there’s a point to this uncharacteristically harsh post.  It’s that people judge your performance in business.  And, sometimes, you don’t know what you are being judged on.

Because the economy tends to roll in cycles, you are probably getting judged the least harshly ever right now.  You probably feel rather safe.  But, what goes up tends to come down and judgments of you may not be as inconsequential in the future as they are now.

So, my advice is to first and always increase your self-awareness.

Anyone who thinks they are perfect has low self-awareness.  We can all improve.  Self-awareness is knowing in which areas you can improve.  We all have some areas needing improvement.

Once you are sufficiently self-aware, you can establish a plan to improve and then execute that plan.  This advice is for everyone, super-smart and pathetically stupid alike.

And, if you don’t feel like taking my advice and increasing your self-awareness, you might be stupid and not even know it.  I hope not.  But, it’s a possibility.  I’ve encountered tons of stupid people who really shouldn’t have the jobs they have.  So, they are out there.

Hopefully, you’re not one of them.  But, at least if you have high self-awareness, you don’t have to be stupid for long!

Improve.  Always.  Sometimes the judge is a harsh one.