You’re wrong, let me tell you why

Having difficult conversations

The title of this article is from my early recruitment career and is quite a famous quote from a past MD of mine. At first glance, it may seem provocative but in reality, it is one of the best pieces of advice I have ever received.

Now, it can be difficult to tell someone they are wrong. It’s uncomfortable for most people to deliver this, plus there are many social implications. Having difficult conversations is never easy and in this case, you could come across as being arrogant, they might not actually be wrong, in fact, it might be you that’s wrong. There could also be contributing factors that you are unaware of (or they just might not want to hear it!)

In recruitment, one of the most challenging things you have to do is to tell a client they have got it wrong. Especially these days as a recruiter, where there can be many barriers to getting the right feedback to the right person. The introduction of technology (ATS systems), job portals, multi-agency PSL agreements, and internal recruiters are all in place to ensure suppliers do as they should. Now, I’m not sitting here saying all of this is unnecessary. They are particularly necessary if you are a big business with a high volume of recruitment. And without this technology, there is no other way to manage things and it would lead to problems, not just financially but also in terms of delivery.

What I am talking about is being able to consult with a client, to truly understand what they need, rather than sometimes what they think they need, and then to assist or guide them to that decision.

When I launched re:find, I decided from the outset that we would only work directly with people who we have a relationship with. That’s not to say we don’t work through some of these channels, because we do. But we still have access to the people who make the decisions so that we can provide advice and guidance, if it is required.

On one particular occasion, a client had gone through the usual PSL channels for a hire and we had been invited in at the back end of things, as they were yet to find what they were searching for. So we took a brief and sent a shortlist. As a niche supplier, we were going to approach things from another angle. None of my candidates were taken forward. In actual fact, they hired from the PSL.

I had pushed back on the brief, sent candidates who were 50% more expensive on the day rate, explained why hiring an interim was different and gone way off brief. (For anyone interested in my rationale please see another blog of mine)

So, I contacted the client and apologised.

Clearly, I’d got this one wrong.

I think they were surprised that I was humble and said sorry about getting it wrong – apparently a lot of recruiters don’t do this!

Unfortunately for the client, the contractor they hired didn’t work out and the client gave me a call to talk through the issues.

I suggested again why hiring a day rate interim could be an option with less risk involved. They were now more open to my initial argument around hitting the ground running and bringing a ready-made toolkit with them.

Needless to say, they chose one off of my initial shortlist.

3 months on and all has worked out well for the client in terms of delivering what was needed quickly and the person has exited, moving on to their next gig.

I share this, as I think it illustrates the journey that you sometimes need to go on to influence successfully.

Here are my top tips:

  • Remember that telling someone they are wrong and why they are wrong, is as much about your self-awareness as it is with changing someone else’s thought process.
  • You won’t be able to change someone else’s opinion straight away, they need to go through a journey to get there.
  • Building a strong relationship with your client and becoming a trusted advisor needs to happen both ways. It can’t be all tell, tell, tell. Saying when you have got it wrong is an important step to building trust.
  • Consider whether resourcing should be treated as such a transactional process.

To discuss further, you can email me on

You can view more about James Cumming our change and business transformation specialist here.

Mental health at work

Mental health at work

By now, you will likely have heard how health and well-being in the workplace is becoming just as important, if not more so, than salary or career progression. One issue that certainly appears to have become more prominent is mental health in the workplace. A detailed insight into this issue has been taken by the CIPD, with surveys in 2011 and one taken more recently this year.

What important information did these surveys bring to the forefront and what can employers do to offer more support?

Firstly, the number of mental health cases in the workplace has risen by 5% since 2011, with the figure now reaching 31%. More than 2000 people were polled within this survey and they found that only 46% felt like they were supported “fairly” well. This figure of 46% is an increase on the previous survey back in 2011, which found 37% felt “fairly” supported. Although this is a significant improvement, employers still have a long way to go.

Only 43% of employees decide to disclose their stress or mental health problems to their employer or manager. A figure that makes it abundantly clear that employees do not feel confident enough talking to their employers about their problems related to mental health. What is even more worrying is that this figure is exactly the same in both surveys, envisaging that nothing has changed in the last 5 years. However, out of those that do disclose their problems, 46% felt very well supported, which is an increase of 9% from 2011.

The age-group that appears to experience mental health problems the most (36%) are those that are between 45 and 54 years old, closely followed (35%) by the 25-34 and 35-44 age groups. Thus showing that mental health issues are not differentiated by age. So what causes the mental health problems? It seems that the majority (54%) seem to suffer from a combination of personal life issues and work issues.

So what can an employer do to support an employee with mental health issues?

Ensure that you create an environment that is open, that encourages staff to discuss their challenges and problems. Have a culture of openness that allows you to go beyond a persons work load, instead it delves deeper into their role responsibilities and the opportunities that they would like to see appear.

Know what to do if a mental health problem arises within your workplace, such as where to direct the employees if they require specialist help. Also, educate yourself and staff on various mental health problems, so you can see the triggers but always remember to be sensitive.

Be Clear
The groundwork can be set from the minute a new recruit starts, just by letting them know that if any problem arises, big or small, that they can discuss it.

It doesn’t take much to make an employee feel supported or to create a culture of openness, especially if it means it decreases the chances of mental health problems in the workplace. What would you suggest would make an employee feel more supported?

To discuss further, you can email me on

You can view more about James Cumming our change and business transformation specialist here.

Pension stats

Pension stats

The thought of one day cashing in your pension and retiring is what keeps some people motivated and happy in the workplace. But with the state pension age rising in November 2018 to 65 and then in 2028, to 67, will workers feel the same? Will the percentage of those that leave work before their state pension begins increase? Only time will tell.

What are your thoughts?

To discuss further, you can email me on

You can view more about James Cumming our change and business transformation specialist here.