SPC Guide
First Word


First Word
Scott Paton

Surviving Tough Times

A good attitude and careful planning might just save your job.


I'd like to think I'm an optimist. I see the glass half-full, not half-empty. Although this outlook on life may occasionally annoy my wife, I believe it has helped me to persevere through some tough times in my personal and professional life. It's a perspective that many quality managers would do well to adopt in today's uncertain economy.

 I'm not talking about being a Pollyanna, either. Blind, persistent optimism won't save your job when layoffs come. To survive and thrive in an era of downsizing, you have to be a focused, educated optimist. You need to believe that your job is crucial for your organization to remain competitive. And you need to make sure everyone in your organization knows it, too.

 Begin by communicating the importance of quality to as many people as you can, both up and down the chain of command. Ask to contribute a regular column on quality to your organization's internal newsletter. Send your manager regular quality report cards. Treat those chance meetings in the halls with top management as opportunities to tout quality improvement successes. Don't make the mistake of hiding in your office to avoid calling attention to yourself: Remember, it's easier for bosses to lay off someone they don't know.

 Look for ways to broaden your role within the organization without adding additional resources. Volunteer to start quality initiatives in nontraditional areas of your organization, such as accounting, sales and human resources. (Be sure to share those success stories as well.) Although you might feel overwhelmed, don't hesitate to take on special projects when called on. Demonstrating your flexibility and team spirit might just keep the ax from falling come layoff time.

 Build your skills portfolio. Attend training sessions as often as you can, even if you have to pay for it or do it on your own time. Not only will you be a more valuable employee, but you'll also discover new ways of getting your job done faster, more efficiently and more profitably for your employer. Consider it an investment that will pay dividends in the form of increased job security.

 Invest in interpersonal relationships. If you haven't done so already, now is the time to build on your work relationships. Take your boss out to lunch. (I know what you're thinking, but isn't your job worth the occasional lunch? If not, maybe you need to work elsewhere anyway.) Play tennis with a fellow manager. Have a drink after work with your direct reports. Simple actions such as these can build a cohesive organization whose employees are willing to go the extra mile when times are tough.

 Be prepared to work with less. Accept the fact that layoffs may come and that you might have to do basically the same job with fewer resources. Don't wait until the pink slips start appearing. Begin by evaluating what's expected of the quality department and what resources you have. Then identify methods for accomplishing the same task with fewer people. See if you can shift some of your department's responsibilities to other areas, such as manufacturing, engineering and the like.

 These are fairly straightforward, basic concepts, but it's amazing how many people naively believe that they are immune to economic realities. A good attitude, careful planning and a little extra effort might result in increased job security and satisfaction with your job.

 I'd like to know your thoughts on how the current economic decline is affecting your job. E-mail your comments to .

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