Written by Peter Cosgrove
I recently heard Kevin Green of the REC re-tell a story from a Head of Procurement. 5 agencies were pitching for a large piece of business, and while all the pitches were great, they all at one stage disparaged their competition either openly or through veiled comments. The Head of Procurement’s view at the end of the process was that the industry seemed to be unregulated with a lot of questionable ethics so with that in mind, he decided to pick the agency with the lowest price. As they say in shampoo ads – here comes the Science bit (or at least the behavioural science piece).
John Skowronski from Ohio University has investigated the downside of spreading gossip. Participants were asked to watch videotapes of actors talking about a third party. Remarkably, even though it was obvious that the person on the videotape was criticizing someone else, the participants consistently attributed the negative traits to the speaker. He concluded that – when you gossip about another person, listeners unconsciously associate you with the characteristics you are describing, ultimately leading to those characteristics being ‘transferred’ to you.
Why is this important to note for recruitment agencies / consultancies? Because we are not very good at talking up our industry. I would go so far as to say that some of our clients, like the example above would say we directly criticise each other. This is not the case in every industry. It’s ok to compete and to be innovative or commercially clever but commenting negatively on others in the industry will ultimately mean one thing – a race to the bottom on price – or so says one Head of Procurement. Think of this and of what others will think of you when you next decide to comment negatively on the industry or a competitor