I was talking with a friend of mine recently who is an executive in operations for a large private company. We catch up a few times a year and swap war stories. His latest had to do with some frustrating dealings he was having with his HR team. Part of this executive’s role is to ensure that sales are made for this company. These sales are the revenue that keeps this company in business and creates thousands of jobs. From time to time, he has a sales professional that might do something that, let’s just say, is not quite by the book.
Let me give you an example of something that may or may not have happened:
Sales professional is competing against your biggest competition over a major multimillion dollar contract. Your sales person has the inside track because they have a strong relationship with the potential clients main decision maker. This main decision maker likes to party, and your sales person knows this. Sales professional goes out and drops $3,700 at a strip club on the corporate credit card with said client. Multimillion dollar contract is signed the next week. On the expense report there is no other name or company listed, your client has a policy of accepting any type of gift or gratuity from vendors.
Finance alerts HR of said activity on corporate credit card, and HR continues to push the issue and wants your sales person fired over their actions. Yes, policy was broken, more than one policy. This was not normal behavior for your sales team. You weren’t given a ‘heads-up’ this was about to happen (trip to strip club). This was the largest contract anyone on your sales staff has ever gotten signed.
What do you do?
You can see how this has many issues. There are definitely some concerns. How do you rectify a $3700 strip club visit by one of your top sales pros, which looks like he went by himself, and ‘on the record’ won’t say that anyone went with him. What if it gets public that is how your company is closing sales? Do you owe it to your client to let them know that their own people are breaking policy?
Here’s what my friend told me: “Tim, I like sausage. Do you like sausage? (I said I did — he continued) If you ever saw sausage being made, you wouldn’t want to eat it, it’s a disgusting process.”
He didn’t have to say anything after that. I got it. Sometimes in organizations we do things for the good of the organization that outwardly might not look good. HR can realize reality, or they can hide behind policy. Either way, we are going to have sausage makers in our organization.