Employees as Vendors in Business and at Work


Social media – and Twitter especially – has created the opportunity for customers to instantaneously express their discontent with the performance of vendors who provide their services, as illustrated in this Twitter feed example:

Verizon Support Twitter Feed

While it puts the vendor (in this case, Verizon) on the spot, it also creates an opening to have a dialogue about the customer’s needs, e.g., how the customer’s needs are not being met; and it gives Verizon (the vendor) the opportunity to make it right for the customer. The public nature of Twitter creates the accountability for Verizon as the vendor; and like any vendor who wants to retain and gain customers, Verizon wants to meet (and hopefully exceed) their customers’ needs.

If you believe, as I do, that employers are the 800-pound (and often sole) customer for their employees, logic would dictate that in this scenario, employees are the employer’s vendors.

Now, it would be poor form not supportive of right employee-relations conduct for employers (as the customer) to call out their employees (as the vendors) on Twitter, or in any public forum – performance feedback should always be given in private, in a one-on-one, face-to-face meeting, to preserve the dignity and reputation of all parties involved in the feedback conversation.

However, isn’t it equally poor form to:

  • Not establish service-level agreements (e.g., performance goals) so that the employee is crystal-clear about what they need to do to meet their employer’s needs;
  • Give performance feedback on areas where the employer is not getting their needs met by their employee only once a year;
  • Not give performance feedback within the first 30 – 60 days of the employee’s tenure on areas where the employer’s not getting their needs met – why torture everyone involved?
  • Not ever giving performance feedback on areas where the employer’s not getting their needs met;
  • Terminate an employee who has never been given such performance feedback, e.g. “there’s no documentation and/or nothing in the employee’s personnel file?”

Giving feedback to an employee about their substandard performance is never easy. However, it can open up an authentic and honest conversation, revealing:

  • Poor job fit (e.g., they were hired into the wrong job);
  • Poor training;
  • No or poor accountability / goals;
  • Poor management;
  • Unhappiness with:
    • Their job;
    • Their manager;
    • The company;
    • The commute;
  • All of the above, or any combination above.

When giving performance feedback, ensure that:

  • It’s contemporaneous;
  • Specific, measurable examples are given, e.g. related to the employee’s SMART goals;
  • Comparisons are not made to other employees;
  • The employee is responsible and accountable for improving their performance, immediately.

Because all vendors – whether they’re internal vendors or external vendors – need to know how to best meet / exceed their customers’ needs to support the success of all, in business and at work.

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