What's your problem?

How can I sustain morale amid prolonged and serious cost-cutting?

by Jeremy Bullmore
Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

Q: How can I sustain morale amid prolonged and serious cost-cutting? I'm responsible for a department of 12, originally a team of 18. The past year has seen severe belt-tightening. There's been a pay freeze too and I'm worrying that goodwill among my team is running dry. This last month I've had to turn down two interesting projects that would have boosted morale because of the costs involved. Taking my staff out for Friday night drinks is hitting me hard too. Help!

A: Friday night drinks are fine when they celebrate success. When they're seen as a substitute for growth and progress, they can be a bit counter-productive. There's absolutely no substitute for a sense of achievement.

So the best I can suggest is you follow the example of Sir Ernest Rutherford, the father of nuclear physics. When he was galvanising the staff of his small and underfunded laboratory, he chose as his rallying cry: 'We haven't any money so we've got to think!'

Split your people into three teams of four. Set them the challenge of inventing a project that demands maximum inventiveness and minimum cash. Arrange for competitive presentations to be made after work. Think up silly prizes: cardboard medals, chocolate coins, crackers with jokes in. Buy a few bottles of screwcap wine.

There's a very strong chance that genuinely valuable thoughts will come out of it and the effect on morale should be tangible.

Find this article useful?

Get more great articles like this in your inbox every lunchtime

A simple cure for impostor syndrome

Opinion: It's time to stop hero-worshipping and start figuring out what greatness looks like to...

I was hired to fix Uber’s toxic culture - and I did. Here’s ...

Harvard’s Frances Frei reveals how you know when your values have gone rotten, and what...

Social responsibility may no longer be a choice

Editorial: Having securitised businesses’ loans and paid their wage bills, it’s not inconceivable the government...

What went wrong at Wirecard

And how to stop it happening to you.

Leadership lessons from Jürgen Klopp

The Liverpool manager exemplifies ‘the long win’, based not on results but on clarity of...

How to get a grip on stress

Once a zebra escapes the lion's jaws, it goes back to grazing peacefully. There's a...