Watch this video first and then I’ll share some commentary on how it connects to purchasing (as odd as that may seem)…

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So what does a video clip from Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer have to do with purchasing?

You knew I’d tell you, didn’t you?

You see, many purchasing departments have been staffed in the same manner as the Island of Misfit Toys – when an employee didn’t cut it elsewhere in the organization and the management didn’t have the heart to fire him or her, that employee was sent to work in the purchasing department.

So purchasing departments became a home for the organization’s “misfits.” This practice was bred from the thinking that the role of purchasing is unimportant and that not much can be messed up in Purchasing.

Well, thankfully, times have changed and purchasing has become recognized as a true profession. Now, Purchasing is a place for people who want careers, not just jobs.

But, unfortunately, some misfits do remain in purchasing departments. These are the people who don’t approach their work as strategic, don’t produce measurable results, and often have bad attitudes.

So leaders of purchasing departments who want to transform purchasing in their organziations need a strategy to deal with the misfits. In my mind, there are two options for the existing misfits.

The first option is to give the misfits the benefit of the doubt and give them the opportunity to come on board with the strategic direction of the purchasing department. This can be done through external purchasing training accompanied by mentoring by the leader or one of the more talented members of the team.

This first option is the best one. If you can make leaps forward in Purchasing without having to change people, that’s great. You look like a great leader, employees are happy that they get to keep their jobs and perform well, and there’s no risk of legal action.

If you find misfit resistance or they still don’t meet the goals expected of the non-misfits, then I believe that you have to resort to the second option – cutting them from the team. Headcount is so precious and limited. For the sake of the profitability of the organization and Purchasing’s reputation within it, you cannot afford to have one seat in a purchasing department filled by a misfit.

You also need a strategy for dealing with management trying to dump misfits into Purchasing (yes, it still happens to this day in some places). Quite simply, just say “No.” Purchasing is NOT the Island of Misfit Toys.

To Your Career,
Charles Dominick, SPSM
President and Chief Procurement Officer
Next Level Purchasing, Inc.
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Charles Dominick, SPSM, SPSM2, SPSM3

Charles Dominick, SPSM, SPSM2, SPSM3 is an internationally-recognized business expert, legendary procurement thought leader, award-winning entrepreneur, and provocative blogger. Charles founded the Next Level Purchasing Association in 2000, oversaw its incredible growth, and successfully led the organization to its acquisition by the Certitrek Group in 2016. He continues to blog and provide advisory services for the NLPA on a part-time basis as he incubates his upcoming business innovations. Charles is also the co-author of the wildly popular, groundbreaking book, "The Procurement Game Plan: Winning Strategies & Techniques For Supply Management Professionals."

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