How to Manage Staff in Tough Times

By LISA SWAN

Times are hard with the economy these days. You may not have the number of staffers you want, or the ability to compensate them the way you wish. So how can you keep your workplace going, and manage your staff during tough times? Here are some tips on how you can do more with less:

Set a great example with your budget

Employees may be able to understand not getting raises during tough times. What they won’t understand is if the spending for perks for upper management continues unabated. That means that things like new office furniture, fancy lunches, and business trips on the company dime that are more like glorified vacations need to end.

This also means that you should be mindful of what expenses you claim, and what you spend your money on. One new manager at a newspaper caused her staff to lose all respect for her when the first task she did was combine two offices into one as her new workplace, and spent money from the department budget on new upscale furniture and paint for her luxurious office digs. While the manager claimed that her office was meant for holding meetings with her staff, as well as her workplace, she was perceived as somebody who put her personal comfort above her employees’ needs, and her staff rolled their eyes whenever she talked about doing more with less.

Work harder than your staff

Along those lines, if you are asking your staff to work late to get things done, you ought to burn the midnight oil yourself. One manager was known to expect his staff to put in late hours every night, while he himself never worked more than eight hours a day. This manager also frolicked on the beach in Puerto Rico and Malibu while sending emails telling his staff to work harder. Needless to say, he didn’t engender respect with his employees.

Another manager lost her staff’s respect when she left work to go to a spa appointment on the afternoon before her department’s big project was due, and while her employees put in 15 hours of work that same day. Then there was the supervisor who literally canceled Christmas for his staff, yet he still took his own Christmas holiday vacation.

If you set an example of sacrifice on your own, you are more likely to get your staff to be willing to work longer and harder for you. If you don’t, then you cannot expect your staff to go the extra mile for you.

Come up with ways to recognize staff without much money

It is crucial that you don’t let your employees’ hard work be ignored. There are many ways that you can reward staff without it costing you an arm and a leg. You can do anything from bringing them baked goods in the morning to giving them days off for working extra hours to having Employee of the Month rewards. There is a cliché about it’s the thought that counts. If you show some thought into recognizing your staff, they will appreciate it, even if it’s not a big raise or bonus.

Learn more about what your employees can do

Even if you cannot hire new employees, you can get more skills from your current ones. Letting your staff grow and learn new things isn’t just great for their personal development. It can also be terrific for your workplace. For example, you won’t need to hire a separate person to do your social media if you task multiple staff members with the task. One company gives everyone, from the file clerk to the CEO, the opportunity to come up with the business’ daily social media tweets. The fact that they all have input on showing the company’s public face gives them the opportunity to talk about what they are doing at the business.

Don’t make promises you cannot keep

Be honest and realistic with your staff about what your budget is. They will understand. They won’t understand, though, if you make pie-in-the-sky promises that you simply do not have the funds to keep.

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