Five Tips for Your Boss During a Recession

February 12, 2009

Dear Boss,

We know that the recession is making your work life miserable but please don’t forget that we’re just as distraught. Here are some tips from a worker bee’s perspective for how you can help keep things positive and constructive in these dark days.
Please don’t preach
Please do not preach to us that these are rough economic times and that we have to cut back or be more careful with our company’s funds. We spent all last year hearing this. And we know its gotten worse–we don’t need you to tell us. Like you, we listen to the news everyday. In fact, we live in fear (maybe more than you) that the next set of big layoffs we hear about on the news may be our own.

We know you are probably having a hard time too.  So, you don’t need to open every meeting or preface every new policy with “because of the recession” or “because of our reduced income.” Such preaching just escalates our blood pressure even more and it makes us feel like you think we are idiots. Just give it a rest and cut straight to explaining the new policy on how we can’t get office lunches anymore, or no more staff training, or travel for meetings.
Acknowledge what we are already doing to help cut expenses
Often when businesses find a way to do things more cheaply, it means that we–the employees–have to do more work. That doesn’t mean we are not more than willing to put in the effort to do things more cheaply (and keep you in business). In fact, we are already doing many things to cut expenses.

In our office, we used to send audio tapes from projects out to a small company that would transcribe the tapes for us. To save money, we now do them in house. This is an enormous amount of work and time for us. Instead of continually reminding us that we have to do this and keep very strict with this rule (nobody was breaking it!!)–graciously acknowledge the endless hours the staff is now spending doing mind-numbing transcription. 
Make consistent budgeting decisions
We watch what you spend your money on as our employers very closely. We know that you got a new desk or that the business re-upped and bought season tickets for client entertainment this year. And we know exactly how much these items cost. It not only kills morale when we see you spend big money on things that should not be the priority, it also makes you less credible when you really need to make tough cuts for economic reasons.
Don’t use the recession as a convienent excuse to make uncomfortable decisons
Blaming the recession for having to lay off the guy who did not do his job well or that we know you never liked to begin with hurts your credibility. Hey, we probably didn’t like that guy either, but when you explain it to the team, don’t say the position was cut for economic reasons.

Instead, be honest, errrr as honest as you usually are about how “Dave is leaving to develop his karoke business, or move to be with his girlfriend.” Another example: I have a friend who was promised a move from his cubicle to an actual office, but the office he was promised lacked furniture. He was told the company could not afford to buy any furniture, and thus he could not move. When he found cheap furniture on craigslist and offered to pay for it himself–he was still refused the office. He suspected inner-office fighting over who wanted the office was the culprit. Now when they tell him they won’t pay for his professional recertification this year because of the “economcy”–what is he to believe?
Be as open as possible with us
As employees, we write the contracts and budgets for our projects, we send out the invoices, and we keep the books. We know what our numbers look like. We know you all must be strategizing and working on how we can stay afloat in the recession, but if you don’t tell us that we can’t be sure.

We are left to believe you are doing nothing while the ship is sinking or that you have already plotted out how long to keep us around before you fire us. We already don’t trust the banks or Wall Street, or our mortgages, and we are just starting to get used to maybe trusting the federal government.  Giving us some specifics on your emergency action plans will help us trust you while we watch everything else go to hell.

I know your instincts might be to keep things behind closed doors because you don’t want to stress us out or have us criticize you, but we will be far more stressed out if we have no any idea what is going on. And who knows, we might have good ideas to improve your strategies.

Special thanks for this contribution from my sister who shares the frustrations of the recession as it effecs the small company where she works!


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Ben Edwards, the founder of Money Smart Life, saved up enough to buy a Nintendo back when he was 12 years old. When he used the money to buy shares of Wal-Mart stock instead, he knew he wasn't like the other kids... His addiction to personal finance has paid off for his family and now he's helping you to afford the life that you want. Check him out on the web at Google Plus, Twitter and Facebook.

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