Change your perspective to remain a valued worker

SUNDAY, AUG. 8, 2010

I live in downtown Spokane in one of the old warehouse loft conversion buildings. From my spot on the couch where I read, converse and watch television, I can see the antenna on the top of the Cathedral Towers building.

For the last several years, a hawk has visited most mornings. He sits up there on that antenna surveying the downtown dining possibilities from a very different perspective. This year, things have changed: The hawk is now a parent and his offspring sits beside him a few mornings a week. I can almost hear them telling each other hunting stories.

In the human world, the last two years have changed everyone’s perspective. We all know people who are surprisingly without jobs, individuals who are working longer and harder for less, and talented people who just can’t find a good job that takes advantage of their skills. Rough times bring out the best and worst in people.

Business people are looking at every dime they spend, reducing staff and looking for the best way to organize what they do and how they do it. The buyers who keep business humming are looking harder and longer before they buy. That research activity has propelled the BBB’s website ( into the top 500 in North America. Change is everywhere and nobody is immune.

The BBB has been through a couple reorganizations. Why? Because our business has changed in dramatic fashion over the last 10 years. Making decisions that adversely affect individuals you care about while doing what’s best for the long-term health of the whole organization is never easy.

When I owned my own business, I faced the same sort of hard choices during the recession of the early 1980s. But I still struggle with the perspective some people have that they are owed jobs. That no matter what their effort, behavior or performance, they should never be affected when economic reality dictates change. What makes a person think they are unaccountable and immune?

The near-classic book “Who Moved My Cheese” urges adapting to change rather than merely worrying about it or fruitlessly trying to fight it. When faced with big changes or the potential elimination of your job, you can adapt:

• Find out what you need to do to enhance your skills and make sure you’re able to transfer your talents to where they are needed.

• Embrace the fact that change is inevitable and get on board to move the company forward.

• Package yourself as a change agent by always looking for the next best product, process or service for your area of influence.

• Know the company is not in existence simply to create jobs, but that it needs to grow.

• Keep your skills up to date and remain eager to learn new ways to do your job better.

• Understand that nobody is picking on you. Decisions are made to ensure the business thrives and adapts.

• Do not ever feel like you are entitled to your job forever; you aren’t.

When faced with a choice between downsizing several existing employees, I always ask myself these questions:

• If I were interviewing applicants for this position, would I hire this person again?

• All skills being equal, who has the best attitude?

• Does this person see opportunities or obstacles?

• Over the course of employment, what kind of growth have I seen in these individuals?

• A year down the road, which person will have helped move the company forward?

• Do I spend extra time coaching this person about the same issues all the time?

• When I do spend time coaching this person, do they listen and absorb?

• Who in this group shows the most promise for advancement?

So if your boss were asking himself questions about you, how would they answer? If you don’t know, you should ask. I always want to be seen as one of the first asked to join in a new project or team, or the first to be promoted. Not everyone feels that way, and that is just fine – the workplace also needs people who want to be very good at what they do and not grow in the company. But many of the other questions make a big difference in how long you stay.

Remember those hawks looking for opportunity in the streets of downtown? Change your perspective to avoid becoming that dinner, and dine out instead.

Jan Quintrall is president and CEO of the local Better Business Bureau. She can be reached at


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