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Improving Company Morale?

Cliff posted more than 11 years ago | from the inspiring-your-peers dept.

Businesses 615

Undaar asks: "I work as a developer for a web development company. We were pretty hard hit (as were many companies that do what we do) by the "economic down-turn". The company went from over 500 people to under 200 in under two years. It's more stable now, but people are consistently laid-off. Consequently people feel like they always have to look over their shoulder to avoid getting fired. Most lunches are spent complaining about lack of enjoyment/challenge from the job and the fact that upper-management seems not to understand what we do. Employers: what have you done to improve employee morale in your company? As an employee, what can I do to improve the morale in the people I work with? How can I make my work environment more enjoyable? What kind of constructive suggestions can I take to management so that they can help improve the situation?"

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615 comments

install linux (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5574369)

it's all you will ever need in life.

Don't take away freedoms to "improve" productivity (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5574370)

People that are happy at work tend to be better workers, so letting them use the internet and phone for some personal business during work can be a "good thing." That's not to say they should be allowed to surf for porn all day, but looking a few websites outside of business during 9-5 can help.

Also, be flexible with work hours. Not everyone needs to work the same 9-5. Let departments figure out their own policy and be flexible with workers.

Re:Don't take away freedoms to "improve" productiv (5, Insightful)

WickedClean (230550) | more than 11 years ago | (#5574569)

And don't take away the casual dress policy (if you have one). Nobody wants to have to wear a damn tie just to sit behind a desk all day. It makes no sense.

I was in a healthcare-related tech company that went under and in the last couple of months, you could see it coming. The bosses had no clue what they were doing and wanted all of us smaller people to come up with AND execute the big ideas.

Maybe the business should offer some info on how to make a great looking resume.

not the first post (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5574372)

My balls on your nose, sir.

Best way to improve morale (5, Funny)

corbettw (214229) | more than 11 years ago | (#5574373)

Whores. Lots and lots of whores.

And don't be stingy with the cocaine, either.

liquor and whores (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5574403)

This will be funny only to the employees of a web development company in PA.

Re:liquor and whores (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5574412)

I'm an employee of a web development company in PA, and I don't get it.

Re:Best way to improve morale (5, Funny)

Bake (2609) | more than 11 years ago | (#5574483)

But I thought companies already had Sales and Marketting?

Re:Best way to improve morale (5, Funny)

Specialist2k (560094) | more than 11 years ago | (#5574554)

Whores. Lots and lots of whores.

I am... ehm... uncertain whether this will actually improve productivity ;-)

Are you kidding? (5, Insightful)

ddstreet (49825) | more than 11 years ago | (#5574374)

The software (and hardware) market is full of so many highly-qualified people, most with years of experience, that employers have little to no incentive to care whether their current employees are happy or not. If they're not, they can either leave or get fired, and it will be easy to replace them, probably with someone more qualified and/or with more experience, who will work for as much or maybe less money.

It's gonna be like this, in our job market at least, for a while. Hopefully not too long...!

Re:Are you kidding? (5, Insightful)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 11 years ago | (#5574487)

that employers have little to no incentive to care whether their current employees are happy or not. If they're not, they can either leave or get fired, and it will be easy to replace them

Yes, but it still may help productivity if they are a bit happier. Whip-n-row motivational techniques rarely work in the longer run.

The exceptions... (and they DO exist!) (5, Insightful)

mekkab (133181) | more than 11 years ago | (#5574524)

First, I agree with you totally. However, beoynd the web development/+5 years java experience/visual basic etc. etc. market, there exists a seedy underbelly to the IT world. That is the land of Legacy Systems.

There exist systems so large and arcane, that it takes a developer the better part of a calendar year just to understand some basics of how the system works (and I've seen others struggle for longer). There is ADA. There may be FORTRAN. And there is a whole lot of assembler.

These are systems that have their own operating systems written on top of the operating system. These have components that average 100,000 lines of code each- with another 100,000 lines of code for the test harness. Now multiply that by 12 support components. And we haven't even gotten to the actual APPLICATIONS that run on top!

For projects like these, management does have to watch their back. They don't have lots of money to keep useless developers on, but once a new project ramps up they say 'oh, we need developers who have a lot of experience with our system' hahaha! Hire back those guys you fired!

It is companies like these (think: big ol' gov't contracts) that have to play this dancing game of shelling out some money for pizza every now and then to keep people happy because if they let go of everyone now (or piss them off enough so they leave), they won't be able to staff up in time when the new projects come, and they won't be able to complete the new projects (because they are aggressively scheduled) and they never make a dime on new projects again.

Re:Are you kidding? (5, Insightful)

Skyshadow (508) | more than 11 years ago | (#5574537)

If they're not, they can either leave or get fired, and it will be easy to replace them, probably with someone more qualified and/or with more experience, who will work for as much or maybe less money.

I know there are some bosses who think that way, but it's a bad idea from a couple of aspects.

First, it takes at least six months to get someone really up to speed in the company, probably a little longer to get them fully effective.

Second, and more important IMO, there's no entity in business more effective than an honest-to-God *team*. People who know each other, who know how the people around them work and who feel like they owe something to their coworkers. This is a hard thing to pull together, but when you do they can accomplish some really special things. Making employees feel like a commodity is completely counter to this.

A good manager will understand this; the problem is, simply, there aren't enough "good" mangers out there -- most people who manage are woefully incompetent at actually managing. Beancounters.

Re:Are you kidding? (4, Insightful)

n3k5 (606163) | more than 11 years ago | (#5574564)

The software (and hardware) market is full of so many highly-qualified people [...] If they're not [happy], they can either leave or get fired, and it will be easy to replace them [...]
Are you kidding? In software development that requires highly qualified people, it is never easy to replace them. It can take months to dive into a new codebase; every day spent on grokking a new project means less constructive work done on it. Sure, you can fire employees all the time and look for cheaper ones, which you treat as lowly development machines that are worth less than the computers they work on. But don't expect them to stay so long that they even get the chance to get any productive work done.

New company memo (5, Funny)

Ed Random (27877) | more than 11 years ago | (#5574375)

"Firings will continue until morale improves"
- The Management

Sorry, couldn't resist ;)

Re:New company memo (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5574425)

"For cost-cutting reasons, the light at the end of the tunnel will be switched off until further notice."
- The Management

How not to do it... (5, Interesting)

technik (86834) | more than 11 years ago | (#5574377)

Two years ago I wrote this: Management Techniques of the Bottom 95% of U.S. Corporations [lonsteins.com] .

Just take all the advice and reverse it. :)

Re:How not to do it... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5574490)

Now that is fucking funny!

And it's funny because it's true. :(

Sucks that I work at a company exactly like that. I think upper management read your list and mandated that all items be immediately implemented!

I would say what company that is...but (big) I probably (blue) shoudn't...

Re:How not to do it... (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5574556)

Your list of managment techniques is spot-on (and hilarious in the Office Space-sense). Here are some additional techniques:
  • Implement cost cutting measures like sharing cubicles and phones. Workers (especially programmers) will fall asleep in quiet environments.
  • Institute low storage limits for email, file servers, etc. Disk space is about $5/Gb, but having your employees efficiently manage this valuable resource is free.
  • Introduce grand new strategic initiatives. Have no vision for how the strategy will help the bottom line. Require worthless training for all employees for whom it would make a difference. Give the good training to people in a position where they cannot make a difference.

STOP THE WAR (-1, Offtopic)

babylon93 (611333) | more than 11 years ago | (#5574378)

We must do something to stop this war.

I am ashamed of my government.

Bush and his partners are criminals, not leaders.

Re:STOP THE WAR (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5574413)

Just read what some of your fellow protestors are saying about Iraq [upi.com] after spending some time there as human shields. The Iraqi people want Saddam gone as much as anyone.

Re:STOP THE WAR (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5574416)

Go back to California you tree hugging hippie.

Fuck Iraq.

Re:STOP THE WAR (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5574484)

It's the people fighting this war that are allowing you to post your goddamn hippie bullshit on this forum.

I don't give a fuck what your opinion on this subject is, but the least you could do is shut your fucking mouth. There are people you have never met that are dying for your freedoms, brother.

Maybe the least you could do is wait to complain until these boys and girls are brought home.

Have a nice big cup of Shut The Fuck Up.

Similar situation (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5574379)

I'm in a similar situation. Our company has had some layoffs, nobody who was a valuable employee in engineering was laid off, however.
Our management is bad, their management is mediocre, and the management at the top is terrible.

How do we fix our morale?
The one thing which has helped me is realizing that management isn't always the enemy. Some of them are stuck in the same shitty situation as you, the engineer, are. Others are trapped by their own management. And yes, some of them are just rotten, but don't blame the messenger, but usually, don't blame his/her boss either!

Find another job (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5574381)

If there isn't enough challenging work, and people are getting laid off, find another job. That's sure to raise morale.

Word Up (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5574383)

I work for a software dev company down
here in O.C. It's the same way here.

The way I relieve my stress is applying
for better jobs and talking more sh!t
about management and their crappy decisions
that landed up the company in this situation.

I left (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5574385)

what have you done to improve employee morale in your company? As an employee, what can I do to improve the morale in the people I work with? How can I make my work environment more enjoyable?

I left and went to another company with people that are happy. Much happier when I recognized that I couldn't steer a ship from the White Star Line with a paddle. Just not possible.

Honesty (5, Insightful)

blastedtokyo (540215) | more than 11 years ago | (#5574388)

Try extracting a little honesty. You won't improve morale by playing music as the titanic is going down. Find ways to tell people the truth. Blow the whistle on bad practices. Get to know management better so you can find out what is really going on so you can tell your people. Tell them what factors will lead to the success of your company. Tell them where you (mgmt or not) fucked up. Tell them where you plan to change things. Tell employees what role they play in the recovery.

If the company intends to screw everyone after finishing a couple pieces to make a liquidation plausible, then it's pretty cold to try to improve morale if you know something horrible's about to go down.

Weed Out Trouble (1, Insightful)

Wanker (17907) | more than 11 years ago | (#5574390)

Just fire all the troublemakers as an example to others. Morale will skyrocket. ;-)

Brown Nose (0)

phusnikn (232888) | more than 11 years ago | (#5574393)

I work for the city goverment (NYC) and I can tell you right off the back its not what you know its who you know.. sometimes you just have to buckle down and kiss ass I know it doesnt sound like the moral thing to do but usually the bosses snitch/bitch usually rides the boat the longest.. Just start smooshing with upper management this is a cut throath market everyone wants your job!! get to know more people of higher status than you in the company.

Suck It Up (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5574394)

These people should be glad they're able to find work at a job that cannot really be considered manual labor. Be glad it's not the depression. Be glad it's not a factory line job.

In short: Look on the bright side.

HAMMOCKS! (4, Funny)

B3ryllium (571199) | more than 11 years ago | (#5574396)

"In fact I know this place called Mary-Anne's Hammocks - the nice thing about it is, Mary-Anne gets in the hammock with you! Hahah, I'm just kidding, Homer."

Hank Scorpio rules.

Morale is your own responsibility (4, Interesting)

yellowstone (62484) | more than 11 years ago | (#5574398)

You can start by getting over the idea that your morale is the responsibility of the company.
Most lunches are spent complaining
If you spend time complaining, you will invariably find plenty to complain about.
about lack of enjoyment/challenge from the job
Enjoyment and challenge on the job is not something that is pointed out to you; it is something you must find for yourself.

Re:Morale is your own responsibility (0)

babylon93 (611333) | more than 11 years ago | (#5574486)

I agree. If a person finds their job dull, maybe they are either:

->> not showing their employer the skills necessary for a more challenging assignment
->> upset about something else, but projecting it on work
->> jealous of a project someone else was assigned
->> the project you are working on has dragged on too long and you are anxious to start something else ->> any combination of the above

I am only speaking out of personal experience here.

Some people whine too much (0, Troll)

jagilbertvt (447707) | more than 11 years ago | (#5574399)

Get a new job you whiner. Some of us would be happy to have a job to complain about.

Re:Some people whine too much (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5574435)

Get a job you fucking leech.

McDonalds might not be glamorous, but it's a paycheck.

Stop laying off. (4, Insightful)

www.sorehands.com (142825) | more than 11 years ago | (#5574404)

The first issue would be to stop laying people off. If people don't have to watch over their shoulder then, they won't have that to complain about.

Though you may not be able to eliminate layoffs, you can cut them down. Work on retraining people into positions if possible. If the layoff is not possible, then make the termination package fair, and give notice. Walking a person out the door without notice not only creates bad feelings for that employee, but also makes others worry if they are next. If you give notice and severance, people will feel a little better about it not being out of the blue. Look at bringing them on a p/t or contract basis also may help, not only for their money situation, but the laid off will take less time to come up to speed than someone new. Consider bringing the laid-off people back, when there is work for them, or when they can be retrained to do other work within the company.

Re:Stop laying off. (1)

anonymousman77 (584651) | more than 11 years ago | (#5574462)

Correction:

Start laying off the dead wood.

Start with the CEO
Next, start nailing all the underlings (aka: satan's minions) who carried out said CEO's wishes.
Finally, cheeto-s and BJs for all who remain!!!

not much hope... (5, Insightful)

gralem (45862) | more than 11 years ago | (#5574408)

#1 *ALWAYS LOOK FOR A BETTER JOB*.

That is, until you find a job where you don't feel you have to look over your shoulder and wonder why management doesn't get it. When management doesn't get it, there's usually no way to fix it. It becomes entrenched in the fabric of the company.

There is only one way for such a company to change--promote from within. This brings up the people who already understand the business PLUS understand the real-world problems faced by the little employees. But such companies rarely do this. They usually hire outside people who have no clue as to what goes on day-to-day. And they keep crapping on their own employees.

I really recommend looking for another job. If jobs in your area are scarce, then think about moving. Being flexible always provides better opportunities. I know the job market is tough right now, and I would not like to be looking for a job. But I've been in that situation many times. And there is not much hope for this type of a company. Unless they promote from within and start investing in their current employees, rather than try to find the next replacement manager who is going to solve all problems, there really is no hope.

Also, all employers should have incentive programs that are based on performance. If your employer does not offer such incentives--even something as little as free movie tickets for the top-performing departments based on measurable results (like lines of checked code, or # of support issues resolved and verified)--then it is another sign of problems with management.

---gralem

Re:not much hope... (1)

tborgman (659734) | more than 11 years ago | (#5574550)

I like the idea of promoting from within, if there are qualified candidates. Our company (at times) has taken this to the extreme. Putting people in technical positions and hoping they learn the job instead of hiring someone with experience and/or education in that area. On the other hand, for jobs which there some to be qualified internal candidates they haven't promoted from within and looked for experience. BassAckwards to say the least. Probably explains why we cut 50 jobs last month.

Read (4, Informative)

LittleLebowskiUrbanA (619114) | more than 11 years ago | (#5574409)

Read this [amazon.com] . The leader in your company should be the first to take on long hours, pay cuts, all of the worst jobs. Set the example for your employees and most importantly, do it with a smile on your face.

What not to do (4, Interesting)

Fjord (99230) | more than 11 years ago | (#5574414)

It's going to be very hard in your present situation. A ping pong table or lunches aren't going to cure the problem: that you've been laying off in stages, causing people to believe that more stages are yet to come. My only suggestion is to open the books a lot, to let people know that you are cash flow positive and that they don't have anything to worry about. If you aren't cash flow positive, then make another cut, but cut very deeply, deeply enough to get the company in a survivable state, and then open the books.

If you can't cut, then you'll need to readjust salaries. DON'T OVERPROMISE. Don't say things like "you'll take a cut here, but when things get good you'll get this kind of bonus" and then later make projections like "we'll be doing well by 3Q03." People remember this shit and when you don't follow through, every promise you make is suspect.

If you don't do something drastic, what will happen is this: the best developers will find a new job fairly quickly for today's economy (about two months). You'll be stuck with the worst ones: the inarticulate, the inexperienced, and the difficult to work with. And then your company will really suffer.

source of good morale (1)

Maelikai (118093) | more than 11 years ago | (#5574417)

Optimal experience comes from "flow". See http://www.debateit.net/improvethought/flow1.htm

In a company/team setting this means having shared challenges that are overcome by the working together. If an assignment isn't inherently challenging you can try to find ways to make it a game.

By contrast morale isn't developed by free food, foosball, ping pong, beer on Fridays, etc. Those things might make it more fun to be at work, they can reinforce the bonds in a team, but they don't make doing the work any more fun.

Alcohol (5, Interesting)

e1en0r (529063) | more than 11 years ago | (#5574418)

No, seriously. That really helps at my company. Granted, it's only a small company of around 30 people, but every last Friday of the month (and occasionally others) they bring us beer and sometimes margaritas. Everyone hangs out in the kitchen and lets off some steam and it really does help. There's usually leftovers too, so my friend and I sneak back there about 15 minutes before quitting time on other days and have our own little party. Several times the owners have walked past on the way to the bathroom and occasionally they join us.

Re:Alcohol (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5574480)

That works for small companies. Our company used to do that when our division was small but as we grew, liability became an issue and the alcohol was canned.

Re:Alcohol (0, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5574559)

So you had to switch to cans? Bummer. It tastes so much better out of a bottle.

Re:Alcohol (2, Funny)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 11 years ago | (#5574573)

they bring us beer and sometimes margaritas.

You must be the Microsoft Outlook Security Development team :-P

* hic *

Workplace democracy (5, Interesting)

da (93780) | more than 11 years ago | (#5574420)

I read an article about 10 years ago which was about some guy in Brasil, I think it was, whose rubber company was about to go down the toilet financially. So he went to his workforce and said "Here's the situation - we're up shit creek financially, either I make half of you redundant, or we take half pay, until the situation improves - you decide" and put it to the vote. The workforce apparently decided on the half pay option, but productivity soon improved and they could afford to pay their old salary. The guy went on to experiment with introducing worker democracy on a wide scale - salaries, job descriptions etc. and apparently the company became very successful. I've always thought that sounded like an interesting idea, has anyone else heard of this?

Re:Workplace democracy (1)

anonymousman77 (584651) | more than 11 years ago | (#5574478)

Brazil has this thing I like to call a "unionized workforce".

TRUE Democracy and parity would NEVER occur without unions. That's why there is no parity here anymore, no unions!

Think about it before you flame me.

Re:Workplace democracy (2, Insightful)

deanj (519759) | more than 11 years ago | (#5574587)

Sorry, dude, but you've never worked in a unionized workplace.

Getting rid of people that aren't doing their job or are complete assholes is a complete bitch.

Ever been to a tradeshow where they have unions in the convention center? You can't even plug in a freakin computer, let alone carry one in, without a union guy. If you do, and they catch you at it, they'll close the whole show down until the "problem" is fixed. Oh, and as a bonus, all that work costs you BIG bucks for them to do it.

Oh, yeah...unions..what a GREAT thing...pffft.

Re:Workplace democracy (1)

saldek (139594) | more than 11 years ago | (#5574540)

Hey, that's exactly what Ayn Rand descibes in Atlas Shrugged. Didn't work out so well there, though.

Get a purpose (5, Insightful)

musicmaster (237156) | more than 11 years ago | (#5574422)

You can't compensate for customers that don't buy anymore. But you can give the company some kind of purpose - so that people don't feel lost anymore.

A manager could redefine the company so that people see a future for it. It could specialize. People could get trained so that a department becomes better and better. Such a specialization could even help when the layoff go on, because it will improve the chances for a new job.

Even a low level employee could help building such a view. Try to find collegues gor exchanging ideas and build your own "center of excellence". With a sense of purpose and collaboration even mediocre employees can achieve good results - provided the motivation is there.

Small gestures and keeping them included (4, Insightful)

Violet Null (452694) | more than 11 years ago | (#5574427)

Assuming that such things as more money and raises are out, due to budget constraints, you tend to have two options:

1) Small gestures. If you're a project leader or some other type of manager, take the people who report to you out for lunch whenever a milestone is successfully passed. Or provide free soda. It won't cost that much, compared to, say, the cost of training a replacement. For some companies, it could also be being flexible on the hours slightly (so that people could come in an, and leave, an hour earlier or later). Or allowing them to play Unreal Tournament after business hours. (This may not be a good fit for all companies, though.)

2) Keeping them included. If something's happening, the employees are going to be hear about it. They can hear about it through the official means, or they can hear about it through rumors. It's better to hear it through official channels; otherwise, rumor-mongering just goes up. If people are going to get laid off, you're much better off being upfront about it -- there'll be uncertainty either way, but at least there won't be the idea that management is hiding something. If possible, present the news with alternatives (see if anyone is willing to work part time instead). The important thing is to let them feel like they have some small amount of control, as opposed to being subject to the whims of fate.

The Art of Management (4, Insightful)

Verity_Crux (523278) | more than 11 years ago | (#5574441)

There is an art to managing technical people that makes them feel like their brain is wanted, and their strong, peon-labor back is not the most important part.

Here are some helps:

If you assume you know the market better than your technical people, all you'll do is torque them off. Programmers usually know the software market pretty well. They at least can tell the difference from a quality product and a lame one -- something most business people can't seem to figure out.

If you have to do lame, per-hour contract jobs (ie, SBIR), make sure the people who actually put in the hours get a bit of hourly income in addition to their normal pay. In other words, the management doesn't deserve the Gov's money when I did all the labor for it. And again, nothing motivates people to peon labor like money.

Free beer. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5574446)

Free beer. Done deal.

You answer your own question... (1)

sterno (16320) | more than 11 years ago | (#5574450)

1) Stop laying people off. If you have to make sacrifices, then make them accross the whole oragnization, temporary pay cuts, etc.

2) Management should make an effort to understand the work that the people are doing.

Ultimately morale is usually tied to a sense that the company is going in a positive direction and that the smallest underlings are appreciated. You can't fake morale. Company picnics or group bonding experiences are poor substitutes for a real sense of cohesion.

Re:You answer your own question... (5, Interesting)

Skyshadow (508) | more than 11 years ago | (#5574507)

1) Stop laying people off. If you have to make sacrifices, then make them accross the whole oragnization, temporary pay cuts, etc.

Or, if you must lay off, act like you don't want to do it.

I've been through or in six rounds of layoffs at four different companies since I was an intern in '98. The very best handling I've seen was when I was with SGI (the company formerly known as Cray at the time) as an intern.

First, you could tell that the boss genuinely hated, hated laying off her people and felt like she'd failed them somehow. Second, when the layoffs actually happened, she held a meeting with the survivors to tell us about it so we didn't hear it through the grape vine. Finally, the department took the whole afternoon off. We had the option to go home, but instead we grabbed some beer and a couple of pizzas and went to a local park, played frisbee and hung out (the people who'd gotten laid off were invited too, which I thought was classy).

At my last company, they laid off like theives in the night. They'd call people in out of the blue, then send out an email apparently designed to scare us all into working harder and longer. One time, we laid off a dozen people and the CEO's wife (who was executive something or other) went out and bought a new Lexus the same day. It's amazing nobody took an AK-47 to that shithole -- they definately had it coming.

Treat your people like professionals (5, Insightful)

Skyshadow (508) | more than 11 years ago | (#5574457)

This is an easy one:

Treat your people like professionals, not children. Tell them what you need them to do by when (set reasonable expectations, not impossibilities), tell them what their assets and resources are, and then leave them the hell alone to work. Don't hold enless status meetings, don't hassle them about what hours they're working, etc. If someone's struggling or not doing their work, you'll have to deal with that, but don't treat that as the default situation.

My last "bad" company was constantly under deadline pressure. My development VP responded to this my having daily status meetings, wasting an hour a day restating what was happening and getting status info that he could have gotten automatically if he'd just learned to use the damned change tracking system. They'd also give you shit if you tried to go home before 9 PM (even if your work was done; you should be "testing or something"). What did I learn there? Treat people like irresponsible children and that's how they'll act.

So, basically, don't overmanage and don't be a dick. Treat your people with respect that you'll get it in return.

There's one more thing I'd suggest, but in my experience this is either something you're good at or something you're not: I'm a firm believer in team building, but in an informal way -- when you go to grab lunch, ask your people to come with you. If you're going to grab a beer after work, invite your people along. In my experience, this works great and has a lot better effect than going to Dave & Busters once a quarter or something.

freedom (3, Interesting)

Joe the Lesser (533425) | more than 11 years ago | (#5574464)

Perhaps your company already works this way, but my company gives it's workers a lot of freedom. I come in and leave as I please, with no fear of reprisal. This leaves me relaxed in the office, and I have never resented by bosses because of it.

Another tip is to take your co-workers out to a bar ;)

Coding contest (5, Insightful)

srowen (206154) | more than 11 years ago | (#5574470)

Our company's engineering department runs an annual "coding contest" with a nice prize or two. Last time, teams of two had two days to build the fastest-running solution to a series of problems.

It sounds kind of gimmicky, but there's apparently nothing like a little competition and a prize to get the software engineers' blood pumping. It was really all the discussion about the problems before and after that was so great... it did a lot to get different groups of people talking like they never had before.

It worked brilliantly as a team-building exercise for engineers. Heh, and maybe it helped the management spot the engineers crazy enough to spend the time on the contest, and win.

the beatings will continue until morale improves (4, Funny)

Stinking Pig (45860) | more than 11 years ago | (#5574471)

Random and capricious firings, demotions, reorganizations, and project cancellations help. So do bamboo canes. I would also look into 50% pay cuts for anyone who isn't management. Keep the staff isolated from each other and the outside world, make sure no one knows how the company is really doing in presales negotiation or postsales execution, and then you'll have a really tight rein on them.

Oh yeah, mustn't forget Gestapo-like surveillance techniques and frequent reminders that you don't trust your employees not to squander company time and resources! Crack down hard on anyone who likes to mail jokes around, block access to humor sites and job-boards, and occassionally reject or alter outbound mails "by accident". Finish this off by identifying your employees by number first, name second -- a login and email address like jc7385@company.com really lets them know how much you care.

Hmmm... (2, Interesting)

Squidgee (565373) | more than 11 years ago | (#5574481)

Well, considering you most likely have a small quantity of money, token gestures may be required.

First off, I'd _allow_ and/or _encourage_ Geek activities (This _is_ a Geek workforce we're talking about, no?). Say, maybe you could have an after hours LAN party? And of course you'd need to allow /.ing, etc, during work hours. of course, not to excess.

Also, assure the rest of them (Falsely or not) that their jobs are secure, that the company needs them, etc etc. THis tends to be important. Also, reward productivity. Maybe $50 for a good worker? Not expensive, but it will boost moral.

Hope this helps!

Re:Hmmm... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5574503)

Do NOT assure them their jobs are safe. Be honest with them.
If you assure them, and then some get fired, you look like a liar (because you are!).
If you are honest with them, it'll improve the morale much more quickly.
"I can't assure you your jobs are safe, but we're doing everything we can to protect you guys."

Don't underestimate the little things. (4, Interesting)

taliver (174409) | more than 11 years ago | (#5574485)

When a boss needs to cut things to show he's ding things to keep costs under control, he invariably heads for 'the little things' first. Like that espresso machine. Or the supply of bottled water. Or Mountain Dew. In many cases these are what employees will consider made the place 'livable', and when the perceived quality of life drops, morale soon goes out the door as well. Especially when all the old guys tell all the new guys "Back in the day we had blah-di-blah blah"

been there (4, Insightful)

jhagler (102984) | more than 11 years ago | (#5574489)

I worked for a company that dot-comed in a blaze of glory, but even through the layoffs we managed to keep morale relatively high by simply showing the employees that we valued them.

I was a low level manager in the NOC and found that by keeping the employees up on what was going on in the big picture, allowing them to have input in some of the decisions which directly impacted them, and not being afraid to roll up my sleves and work side-by-side with them they respected me more and were always willing to go the extra mile for me. The most detrimental thing to their morale were the company meetings where the C*O's tried to rah-rah the troops with buzzwords and press releases. People like to feel as though they have some controll over thir future and they know that upper management is the proverbial irresistable force, so keep them away from that and help them focus on the things they can change for the better.

In short the best thing for morale is the respect of your direct manager and as little of the corporate crap as possible.

Win the Lotto (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5574491)

Then get on the company PA system and tell everyone to fuck off, especially your boss

Not gonna happen (1)

xagon7 (530399) | more than 11 years ago | (#5574492)

People see layoffs.. takes YEARS and new policies and management..possibly NEVER, to improve company morale. It would ALWAYS be in the back of my head.

Simple Solutions (5, Funny)

drayzel (626716) | more than 11 years ago | (#5574493)

Having problems with negative talk during lunches?

Get rid of the lunch breaks! If your local labor laws won't alow that, then just make sure each employee has a different lunch time. You may have to vary start times to fit them all in, but that is why the day has 24 hours.

People complaining around the water cooler?

Remove the water cooler! If the local health laws require a source of water, then intall a money collection device. People will think twice about gathering around for a BS sessions if it costs them $.25 a swallow.

Negatiove E-mails making the rounds on your corporate network?

Are their computers REALLY needed?
Isn't web development really more of an artistic thing? I think only one person would really need to have a computer, the rest can just draw there ideas on paper with crayons and submit them to the guy with the computer for entry. And those silly PHP or Perl monkeys spend WAY too much time changing code, tweaking , degugging and stuff. I think most bugs are there because they are not careful or they are poor typists. You could hire a touch typists from you local high school to enter all their code for the day in the evening. Tha way they would be sure to be accurate the first time. Your empyees will be so busy they won't have time to have morale.

You are correct in your assumption that lay offs cause bad morale. NEVER LAY OFF EMPLOYS! Alway make thier job so horrible, so degrading, so painful that they just quit. It will save you a bundle on unemployment fees and severence packages. If you planned ahead you are allready located in an area like Utah, that has a horribly depressed tech sector so a few employees will stay because they know that the only other oppurtunity is flippiung burgers at McD's.

~Z

Re:Simple Solutions (3, Funny)

the eric conspiracy (20178) | more than 11 years ago | (#5574536)

One of the best ways to improve the moral of a group of employees is to fire those with low moral. This will obviously increase the average moral level.

Example. Suppose you have 10 employees, 9 which have a moral level judged to equal 5, and one with a level of 1. The moral level is 4.6. Fire the guy with a moral level of 1, and the average moral level is now 5, roughly a 10% improvement.

Do what you enjoy doing... (3, Interesting)

vwpau227 (462957) | more than 11 years ago | (#5574495)

I think the key to enjoying work is to love what you do. I work for a startup and absolutely enjoy what I do, which includes creating, designing and documenting wireless communications systems. Sure, the pay could be better, and sometimes I wish that the company was better funded, but I think what I get from work is more than just a paycheque. I get to do things that I want to do, and work on special projects where I see I can make an impact. And that has made all the difference.

So what can employees do to make their working experience beter? How abou finding opportunities in your own position where you can make a contribution. How about finding a different job that you like and where you can do what you want to do? If there aren't any positions around, find new opportunities for your skills and experience and start your own business. Everyone has special skills and knowledge that are applicable to the marketplace. The important step is finding and indentifying these opportunities.

I figure I've been quite lucky in the grand scheme of things to be where I am, and I acknowledge that. However, I think that we all can do our part to find work that is stimulating and rewarding.

Kahil Gibran in his piece "The Prophet" wrote that "Work is love made visible. And if you cannot work with love but only with distaste, it is better that you should leave your work and sit at the gate of the temple and take alms of those who work with joy."

Gibran continues, "For if you bake bread with indifference, you bake a bitter bread that feeds but half man's hunger. And if you grudge the crushing of the grapes, your grudge distils a poison in the wine."

The key to enjoyment at work is to find a place where you can do what you love to do. And that in turn will enhance your morale.

Just do what I did. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5574514)

If you are unhappy in your job. Quit and then make your own future. The companies need their employees when they all start quiting to do their own thing maybe they will learn. Or more to the point, hopefully they will cease to exist. Remember all companys are run by morons.

"stable"? (3, Insightful)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 11 years ago | (#5574515)

The company went from over 500 people to under 200 in under two years. It's more stable now, but people are consistently laid-off.

It is more stable because the layoffs are "consistent" now? Do you mean that the rate of deceleration is more constant? I don't know if I would call that "stable".

Thoughts from a newbie. (3, Interesting)

kleinux (320571) | more than 11 years ago | (#5574525)

I am a newbie in the sense that I am fresh out of college and am at my first job. In fact, I have been with this company for less than two months. In that time they have done a lot though: two company wide meeting (free alcohol and food) and a happy hour. For the next planned meeting it is rumored that we will see a movie. Granted, my company is doing pretty well, but not as well as they were a few years ago. I like seeing that the company is willing to spend a little in these ways goes a huge way to show that they have confidence in the business model and the importance of keeping me happy and informed. Of course, I am new to this so who knows if it will really help in the long run. But judging by the way my coworkers respond I think these little perks will keep me happy. For the time in between functions it also helps that my boss is not an asshole ;^)
For a little comparison, the location I work at has about 100 employees and about 1000 company wide.

Observations (4, Insightful)

The G (7787) | more than 11 years ago | (#5574538)

Having stayed with a company into its implosion phase last year (man am I gald to be out of that and back in the start-up world again. I may be underpaid and probably out of a job before long, but so is everyone else!), the single most damaging thing is the rumor mill.

It goes like this: Company is in trouble. To avoid the markets/customers/suppliers finding out, they say nothing. Eventually, layoffs. Now employees realize that their interests are best served by finding out the stae of the company -- ie, subverting the company's closed-lips policy. Rumor mill develops much faster and more extensively than management realizes. The information in such rumor mills can be breathtakingly precise: Ours (distributed via a custom-developed desktop "ticker" app...) knew the date of the next layoff round before HR or division managers did. But bogus information gets in there, too. The company can't address the rumors without violating its own policy. So the rumor mill becomes a nucleus for bad morale.

The only solution is for the company to abandon its closed-lips policy and get out there and say, "okay, we're in bad shapes, here are the accounts we are losing, here are our prospects, here's how many of these we need to develop to survive." It needs to say, "layoffs are decided in X manner by Y people, with Z approval." Only good information can drive out bad information.
--G

ISN'T IT OBVIOUS? (1, Insightful)

YOU ARE SO FIRED! (635925) | more than 11 years ago | (#5574539)

The best way for an employer to make employees feel better about their jobs is to show that you'll bend over backwards to help them keep their jobs. No matter how great all other work conditions are, if you constantly are having to "look over your shoulder," you'll never be able to feel good about work and productivity will be in the crapper. If times are tough economically, reroute redundant employees to other lacking areas or in an area that may open new business opportunities and lay off as few people as possible (with decent severance packages - even that will show remaining employees that if they do have to leave, at least they'll be temporarily taken care of).

With that said, your decent severance package is with Maria at the front desk, along with your DOA: Beach Volleyball poster and Lord of the Rings figures that were on your monitor. You're fired. Be out by noon.

Whack the bad apples! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5574545)

In situations like these, there are always one or two people that are spreading the negative rumors/news/interpretations of events. These people negativize the experience for everyone else.

Fire those people, and everyone will be better off.

It's amazing, but true. My company did that to one woman who was basically a negative/evil vortex, and morale improved in a week - it shattered her cabal.

In this situation, you'd probably be the one who got fired, because you sound like a whiny toad. Just focus on your work - it's not your job to yammer about how bad your management is or morale.

Your complaining to your co-workers is making things worse. Shut up, and do your job.

Things to do, and not to (4, Insightful)

deanj (519759) | more than 11 years ago | (#5574546)

First off, if the company continues to lay off people in round after round, don't keep your head in the sand because you could be next. Be sure and have some feelers out for a new place to go NOW if it all possible...who knows, you could end up with a better job.

I've worked at places like you described. Unless the company, or at the very least, your immediate management itself commits to making it a better place to work, it's not going to happen.

Things the company can do (not in any order here):

1) Free drinks
2) Flex time
3) Comp-time for overtime work
4) Food brought in
5) Lighten up on the dress code
6) Flexibility on web access
7) Promotions.... even if it's just in title
8) Explain what the hell the plan is.
9) Increased vacation time

Things the company should NOT do:

1) Organized pot-luck (how depressing)
2) Hand out company-logoed crap

I'm sure there are more for each list. I just can't think of any at the moment.

You and the rest of the folks you work with can do things outside the company (go out to movies, play sports after work, lan-parties...whatever you're all into...you get the idea), and that'll help the moral with the folks you work with, but it's not going to help with the place you work.

Again, the downside of all this, if moral is great, and the company continues to lay people off, getting ripped out of there at some point for a layoff will hit you like a ton of bricks. And one hell of a lot more because you liked to work there.

Morale (2, Funny)

spoonist (32012) | more than 11 years ago | (#5574549)

Best thing for morale?

How about you quit?

After a few months of you still unsuccessfully job searching, everyone at the company will feel really appreciative that they still have their jobs. This will vastly improve morale!

Also you can return periodically to regale them with hilarious job interview anecdotes.

Fixer Upper (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5574552)

ALE AND WHORES!!!

fish (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5574561)

i'm sick of it already but my company along with a lot of others swear by this book/film/crap

http://www.charthouse.com/product_film_fp.asp

Stop trickle layoffs (3, Insightful)

XNormal (8617) | more than 11 years ago | (#5574574)

There is almost nothing worse for morale.

Management may make one last round of layoffs, if really necessary, and then set a challenging goal and declare that there will be no more layoffs for one year (unless someone is really not getting any work done, of course).

Turning around the company...from the small side (4, Insightful)

Spooker (22094) | more than 11 years ago | (#5574582)

My own experience is with a company that started with 4 developers and 3 management types...we got up to a whopping 18 people at our highest (only 8 of those webheads) and now we have 3...morale in my company was the lowest that people quit in batches...all thanks to a management that didn't pay attention to what the developers had to say...we were just slaves that cost too much :)

In a way, thankfully, the owners woke up and ripped the company to shreds after finding out what was happening...now we are three developers...and yes we went from 40 hour weeks to 70 hour weeks along with our salaries dropping by as much as 60%...but we are loving it...we went from being developers with absolutely no control of what we did to developers ready to conquer the world...

It's not about team-building, it's not about pats on the back, it's not about high salaries (but high salaries don't hurt )...it's about making a difference in a world that is regaining some of the idealism we thought was lost...open-source projects lets everyone be the king of software...watching a feature you dreamed up make it into the site or the software is better any day than having your boss give you a peptalk about doing a good job...

For those who read this and are not sure where I was going or where I went, you're not alone...I'm not sure either ;) but I think I outlined the points I wanted to share that make me the work-a-holic that I am...one who enjoys giving tech support just as much as getting that new delphi component to work exactly the way I dreamed last night at 3am and then decided to code at 4am...

I'm really glad (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5574584)

I'm really glad that I went to a private school. Spent over $80,000 for an education and majored in computer science. To then have the bottom fall out of the industry a year later and be unemployed.

Thanks for all the good advice to my advisor.

The solution could be as easy as a box of tic-tacs (4, Funny)

Linux-based-robots (660980) | more than 11 years ago | (#5574586)

[excerpt from Dilbert strip] ...
Dilbert: Any idea why morale is so low?
Wally: We think it's your breath.

WHAT DID THE SANDNIGGER SAY WHEN HE GOT (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5574591)

WHAT DID THE SANDNIGGER SAY when he got his FAMILY blown apart???? -- PRAISE ALLAH LOLOL
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