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Improving Company Morale? 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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Improving Company Morale?

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday March 22, 2003 @01:17PM (#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.
    • by WickedClean ( 230550 ) on Saturday March 22, 2003 @01:52PM (#5574569) Homepage
      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.
    • by ( 637314 ) on Saturday March 22, 2003 @02:06PM (#5574626) Homepage Journal
      This is soooo true. I have flex hours, I can work 6am-2pm, 2pm-10pm, or 9-5. I can work at home, or my office, thanks to things like a VPN and Avaya IP Softphone [].

      When your work load starts to be equal to that of 2 or 3 (or more!) head count, and you know that if you push yourself that you can do it... there are a few things that happen: 1) you realize that doing this work will save your job for the months to come so you do it, and 2) you realize that your boss doesn't really care if you sit in an office or the recliner in your home... as long as the work gets done the boss will be as happy as pig in shit.
    • by pivo ( 11957 ) on Saturday March 22, 2003 @02:39PM (#5574771)
      Flexible work hours and an open plolicy regarding internet and telephone use is a very good policy, but the absence of this type of policy is a symptom of a deeper problem within corporate "culture," by that I mean the treatment of employees like any other "just-in-time" business resource.

      Many companies today layoff and re-hire (euphamistically called "contract hire") employees as they're needed. Contract prices today are generally no where near where they were a few years ago because of the surplus number of contract workers and the new rage to outsource work to drastically cheaper overseas labor pools. Corporations spent the 80's and 90's trying to convince people that it really was in their best interest to function as resource units, even suggesting that it put the individual worker in the driver's seat, but in realitiy of course it was always in the corporations best interest. An excellent book on this subject is Thomas Frank's One Market Under God [] which chronicles the enormous PR and marketing resources expended by big companines to cultivate thier self-serving pseudo-populist image. Great insight also into the backgroud behind all those MCI and IBM commercials featuring throngs of third world looking people and the proverbial work-at-home CEO mom. Does Microsoft really stand in awe of us? I don't think so.

      Few people are doing well contracting today. Employers need to realize that paying employees well and not treating them like children, indentured servants or worse as a simple "resource" like computers or other equipment but instead like fellow human beings, is the best way to make everybody happy and productive.
      • by swb ( 14022 ) on Sunday March 23, 2003 @11:08AM (#5578147)
        The phenomena you describe I think is part of a larger (and growing!) class division in America. People who do real work (ie, that can point to a product and show their specific contribution, whether design, programming, manufacturing, etc) are being seperated from people whose real work consists solely of "managing".

        People who "manage" have set themselves up as a self-ruling class that sets the rules and rewards for not only the the people they manage but for themselves as well. The important thing to note is the self-ruling aspect -- the management class very nearly always gets bonuses when workers get paycuts, for example.

        The other aspects of the management class that trouble me is the way that the work done my managers is structured in such a way that many expenses are subsidized for the "managers". Many managers travel extensively and during this time have all of their expenses recouped, they dine out extensively and many often private expenses are paid for by the company (home office setups, club memberships).

        It's not that any of the justifications for paying for these things (ie, meals on company trips) are illogical or wrong, but that the work is structured in such a way that an entire class of workers spends much of their working time in situations where logic dictates that their otherwise personal expenses are paid for by their employers, which is not an insignificant decrease in their overall financial burden, in spite of often exponentially larger salaries justified by the demands of "travel" and "evening dinner meetings."

        Meanwhile the "do-ers" are forced to dine at the company cafeteria (short lunch periods) or brown bag it, pay for their own parking and justify office supply purchases for trivial items. Essentially they are required to bear the full costs associated with going to work, while the management class has them heavily subsidized.

        What also concerns me about this is the social aspect of this; people spend so much time at work that they transfer the implied power and priviledge of their work places to the rest of their lives, presuming that a seperate set of rules applies to them vis-a-vis taxes, schools, residences, and even law enforcement and access to government decision making.

        People who belong to the management classes tend to cluster in McMansions in the same wealthy suburbs and make effective use of their affluence to influence the political process to ensure their continued viability (undermining worker protections, tax cuts only they seem to benefit from, public works projects that they derive a preponderance of benefit from such as new highways to their suburbs).

        I believe its just the further Brazilification of our economy and way of life.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday March 22, 2003 @02:42PM (#5574779)
      I agree with the internet and phone use for personal business. Most of the time I have to take a vacation day to compelete such tasks and no work gets done. On the flex hours, I would agree to a degree. In the past I have had a question for someone only to realize the that person would not be at work for another two hours (or has already left for the day). But I do not have a problem with 30 minutes to maybe an hour. 30 minutes can drastically affect commute time because you are no longer in sync with everyone else.
    • by sisukapalli1 ( 471175 ) on Saturday March 22, 2003 @03:11PM (#5574899)
      Flexible hours... Some companies have flexible hours. However, there are so many related issues it is not even funny.

      The notion of flexible hours in startups has become "come late, leave late". If someone wants to start the work day at 7am in the hopes of getting out by 4 or 5 and get a life, there is almost palpable tension from the glares of coworkers who amble into work sometime at 10am or 10:30am. More so, if the bosses themselves are late comers.

      The flexible hours thing is almost abused in some places. It is much less pressure, if people are asked to be in at certain time, get out at a certain time (unless there are deadlines and other situations).

      Imagine having no work to do and still having to sit till 7pm because the dudes that come at 11am will stare you into submission...


      • by Fesh ( 112953 ) on Saturday March 22, 2003 @06:46PM (#5575779) Homepage Journal
        Heh. I don't have to imagine that because the staring into submission doesn't work on me. The easiest way to get me to dig in my heels is to try to exert peer pressure.

        They chose to come in late. Screw them guys, I'm going home.
      • by cmacb ( 547347 ) on Saturday March 22, 2003 @10:31PM (#5576694) Homepage Journal
        "The notion of flexible hours in startups has become "come late, leave late". If someone wants to start the work day at 7am in the hopes of getting out by 4 or 5 and get a life, there is almost palpable tension from the glares of coworkers who amble into work sometime at 10am or 10:30am. More so, if the bosses themselves are late comers."

        More often, in my experience, it is the other way around. I've always been a night owl. My last job had an equal number of late comers and early birds. I was almost always the last one out of the office at night, sometimes including the night guard who locked up everything around 10PM.

        I envy the person who can work at home whenever they feel like it. I had this luxury for about 2 years. The trick of course is that both you and your manager (or customer) must have a good idea of what the job is that you are doing so that you can agree on when it is 10 percent done, 50 percent done, or finished. These days, there are way too many manager that have never done any of the technical work that they manage. They don't have a clue what you are doing or how you do it. They don't know good quality from bad quality until the end user complains. I would rather work as a greeter at Walmart than work in one of these organizations again. I have no respect for the managers involved, and if you sign on to one of their projects you are doomed to fail even if your own work is beyond comparison.

        At some point, and maybe we have already reached it, production of good software must be it's own reward, since the captains of industry don't seem to know good from bad. Results are slowly comming in from projects farmed out to cheap labor overseas and it ain't pretty. This has nothing to do with intelligence or talent of those workers who do work over there for a fraction of what we are used to getting paid. It has instead to do with the total inability of management to conceptualize (much less document) the products that they are trying to turn out.

        It is unfortunate but true, these failures will not result in the perpetrators getting fired for incompetence. Rather they will be so monumental that they will cause businesses or at least divisions to be closed down entirely. As poor as mid management is at evaluating the quality of our work as programmers and technicians, top management is even *worse* at evaluating the results of mid-level managers. In almost every case the solutions will be too-little too-late.

  • by corbettw ( 214229 ) <corbettw&yahoo,com> on Saturday March 22, 2003 @01:17PM (#5574373) Journal
    Whores. Lots and lots of whores.

    And don't be stingy with the cocaine, either.
  • Are you kidding? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ddstreet ( 49825 ) <ddstreet@i[ ].org ['eee' in gap]> on Saturday March 22, 2003 @01:17PM (#5574374) Homepage
    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...!

    • by Tablizer ( 95088 ) on Saturday March 22, 2003 @01:35PM (#5574487) Journal
      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.
    • by mekkab ( 133181 ) on Saturday March 22, 2003 @01:44PM (#5574524) Homepage Journal
      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.
      • by divisionbyzero ( 300681 ) on Saturday March 22, 2003 @02:32PM (#5574748)
        Yes, and what is the biggest focus in IT right, now? Getting rid of these exceptions in order to cut costs. I could justify keeping around a couple of extra Java/XML guys for future growth, but my first priority is to get the legacy folks on-board with something standards compliant, or at least less arcane, or get rid of them. And those folks are followed closely to the door by those people that refuse to share knowledge. You make yourself indispensable by being a leader, not by hoarding knowledge. In reality, nobody is indispensable.

        On the other hand, as far as hiring and firing in this market goes... A lot of people seem to have bought into the myth that employees are interchangeable. Maybe to a certain extent someone's technical skills are interchangeable, and that's debatable, but their personality and their "soft skills" are not. Believe it or not, soft skills matter in every part of the company. So, getting the right person is often more important than getting exactly the right skill set.

        It's odd to see how opinion seems to break down into extremes, like indispensable or interchangeable, in adverse conditions, when, really, any good manager with a good sense of perspective doesn't believe in either of those opinions.
    • by Skyshadow ( 508 ) on Saturday March 22, 2003 @01:45PM (#5574537) Homepage
      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.

      • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday March 22, 2003 @02:20PM (#5574690)
        You are absolutely correct. A good team of competent people, who have (at least) some experience, can get almost anything done, and usually at a relatively fast pace.

        Unfortunately, almost all management out there is completely clueless; they use unexperienced people to work on projects, either because they're cheap or to "broaden their skills". The project leader usually is the only one with some experience in whatever they're working on, but they are usually so bogged down with meetings they don't do any actual work. The result is crap, for everything that is produced. Once the workers get experience with whatever they were doing, they are either moved to something else that they have no experience with, or they move to management (where they stop doing actual work). It's a vicious cycle... all new development is utter garbage, and management simply refuses to improve it at all (it works! Why should we pay you to change it?) even though maintaining it is an absolute nightmare, especially as more and more fixes get tack-hammered on. Eventually someone (or multiple poeple, depending on how bad it is) is stuck with the awful job of maintaining the spaghetti code, and the company winds up spending 10x more money to maintain the crap than if they had fixed it in the first place...

        I guess the essential points that management always fails to understand are:

        • Keep experienced programmers working. When they are promoted, don't put them into management; they are much more valuable (and probably happier) as programmers. Promote (or 'move', programmers are more important and should make more than management) the bad programmers into management, that's probably where they want to be anyway.
        • You need a prototype. I just can't stress this enough. No matter how good you think your design is, the first implementation (if constrained to any deadlines, which they always are) will be bad. It's unavoidable. A prototype, which can be either throw-away or the base for the real product, is just essential. It's funny that hardware people (including management) have known this for years, but software management (and some inexperienced or just inept programmers) won't accept it.
        • Let inexperienced programmers work on the prototypes and/or programs that won't be maintained (for any extended period of time). It's not their fault, but when you're inexperienced you just don't produce good, maintainable code. You have to learn. But learning by writing code that's going to be sold and maintained is a real bad idea, that only management (who doesn't understand how programming works) would think of.
        • Move bad programmers out, probably into management. The last person that anyone wants to work with is a bad programmer.
        • Don't make experienced programmers spend all their time training inexperienced programmers. This is such a waste. Management thinks that somehow magically good programmers will transform inexperienced programmers into a new good programmer. But what happens is the good programmer never gets to do any work, and the inexperienced programmers are the only ones writing your programs.
        • by len_harms ( 455401 ) on Saturday March 22, 2003 @06:14PM (#5575634)
          the bad programmers into management, that's probably where they want to be anyway

          I have never agreed with moving people into managment that are not TRAINED to do this. Managing things is WAY different than writing code. Writing code you just need to watch the flow of the code. Then if you wrote your code correctly just tweak it once and awhile. Managing people you need to have people skills. You need to know how to handle someone who works hard, who is lazy, who is sick, who is wasting everone elses time, someone who is a bully, someone who is harasing others... You need to know how to do these sorts of things. Last I checked they do not teach that in any comp sci classes.

          Making a 'programmer' a mangager is almost always a bad idea. If he is a bad programmer he probably is not a good manager either. He did not have the motivation to become a decent programmer, which I have always belived is not that hard to do. Also sometimes the reason they are bad programmers is because they simply do not get along with people. Puting them in charge will only make this problem worse. I have witnessed this many times.

          My father used to work for a large insurance company. Before he could even get promoted to be a manager, out of sales, he had to take MANY MANY MANY classes in how to manage people. He then had to prove he could do it. We in the tech industry seem to take almost the exact oposite aproach. We promote people who should never even breathed that pay grade, and then only because they did something cool.

          All your other points I agree with. Just promoting people to get them out of something is usually a bad idea. Its better to put them somewhere where they do no harm, or (i know this is cold) fire them.
    • by n3k5 ( 606163 ) on Saturday March 22, 2003 @01:51PM (#5574564) Journal
      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.
      • Re:Are you kidding? (Score:5, Interesting)

        by vsprintf ( 579676 ) on Sunday March 23, 2003 @04:06PM (#5579267)

        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 and I know that, but management is not willing to believe it. They would much rather believe that programmers are plug-and-play widgets that can be replaced at will.

        We once had a coder (call him Joe) who received an offer from another company and gave our employer a chance to match it. They told him no, so he took the other job. Jane was chosen to take over Joe's projects, and she was skilled but had no experience with the projects. A few weeks later, there was a minor-version OS upgrade for security reasons, and a critical application broke. The latest version wouldn't even compile any longer.

        From my office, which was very close to management row, I was able to hear the (very loud) wisdom of the top IT manager. He ranted at length about how it was unforgiveable that things stopped working just because some guy name Joe was gone. He yelled about how if we had proper documentation (which we did) anyone should be able to walk in and perform Joe's tasks. He shouted about having proper processes and how that would make individuals irrelevant. It was quite an eye-opener for me.

        At any rate, Jane called Joe, and he was nice enough to walk her through far enough that she was able to prove it was a problem with COTS software and have it resolved. The end result: four days down-time on a critical application and a whole slew of useless new rules on project documentation that waste a great deal of time. Management is generally clueless.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday March 22, 2003 @02:00PM (#5574596)
      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.

      That's a complete and utter myth. The software market is full of loads of utterly incompetent bottom feeders that flowed into the industry during boom time, however there is a MASSIVE lack of actual knowledge or talent. I'd wager that >90% of software developers out there slumber from day to day not really sure what their doing. Greater than half of all software projects are an absolute failure, while of the remaining half most fail to fulfill their mandate.
      • by LibertineR ( 591918 ) on Saturday March 22, 2003 @04:11PM (#5575141)
        Give that man a star! Most of you suck.
      • by BeerSlurpy ( 185482 ) on Saturday March 22, 2003 @07:29PM (#5575933)
        This isnt funny, but keep modding it up.

        The software market is completely glutted with incompetant morons who are suitable for use as little more than semi-computer-literate go-fers. These are the guys are are having their lunch stolen by the indians and russians who can program as good or likely better for 10x less. A lot of them are finally being forced to leave the software field altogether because they dont have the enthusiasm to do it when it isnt easy money.

        In case you werent aware of this, the current paradigm for making software in this country is to have maybe 3-4 architect/senior developer type guys who design the overall product, make all the hard design decisions. They also do protyping, make libraries and develop tools for the more junior programmers to use, etc. Working with these guys are a large group of more junior guys who do all the hard work of actually writing all the code, using the design and tools that the smart guys have done.

        It has been determined that you dont have to employ americans for the junior level positions, because all that is really required is hardworkingness and an eagerness to learn. You can employ ukrainians, irish, indians or chinese who speak english and if they show true talent, you bring them over on visas so they can pick up english and later become the guru type guys.

        This is bad for americans because it means that you have to eat a lot of crow when youre paying your dues as a junior level guy. Until you have about 5-7 years of experience, employers will not even begin to consider you as a valued asset- until then youre really cannon fodder. You really have to hustle when your compeition considers $100 a month to be a kingly salary. Its possible to succeed (Hey, I did without even a CS degree) but it takes a lot of work to get there.

        It doesnt exactly help that there are all sorts of pitfalls in the industry like clueless employers, consulting firms etc who can take someone with plenty of potential and completely ruin them as a programmer.

    • 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 costs approximately $10-15k (before you spend dime one in salary) to hire your average full-time employee in America. (This is an average, not a locked-in-cement dollar amount... It includes advertising, agency efforts, the manager's time, the HR manager's time, how much time it takes to sift through 2,000 resumes for a $22k per year helpdesk job, any training they may need to provide to get the new guy up to speed, drug test, background check, reference check, etc...)

      Given this fact, in the long run, it costs MORE to have high turnover in a company than you could ever spend on treating your staff like human beings... I'm not talking about pool tables and six-figure salaries, either. I'm referring to simple things like flex-time so people can actually see their kids and have interests in their lives besides work.

      It seems to me that any company operating under this "Who gives a shit about you?" theory should be avoided... Sadly, in this employment market, the talent (that's us) doesn't have the option of voting "nay" to shitty employers by walking off to other jobs.

      I am quite fortunate that my new employer is a private (profitable) corporation that doesn't have to whack $1,000,000 out of the budget every five minutes to meet short-term proft forecasts and prevent stock price fluctuations. My former employer made $36 billion in PROFIT the year they laid us off. Sorry, but if you have to fire 5,000 people one quarter, then need to have a "massive hiring drive" the next, that is short-sigthed mismanagement by drones in suits who put their 401k balances ahead of the company's long-term stability and reputation.

      It is easy to say "We can cut 30% out of tech support and still field the same number of calls" but "# of calls" is not the same figure as "# of calls handled satisfactorily." As the quality drops, long-term sales prospects of the company's newer products slowly evaporate as CIOs and IT Managers say "Why the hell should we deal with those slow/incompetent jerks, when XYZ Corporation still offers good service?"

      (Ever spend big money with a vendor after their "support staff budget cuts" led to lousy service? Me neither...)

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

      Sadly, I'm afraid you're correct that we're going to have to deal with this sort of idiocy for a while longer... It is amazing to me that in strong economic times, managers complain endlessly about their "free agent" employees, louldy wondering where "loyalty" went?

      Then, in the down times, selfsame managers do their best to shit all over said employees... Perhaps if employers didn't (ab)use their power over their employees in a lousy employment market they wouldn't be so eager to jump ship at the first opportunity.
    • by Doomdark ( 136619 ) on Saturday March 22, 2003 @03:59PM (#5575085) Homepage Journal
      No, no and no. You are assuming that any person can be replaced with anyone about as qualified, and the resulting accomplishments are the same. Further, you assume happines and motivation have nothing to do with productivity, related to motivation, experience and skills (and in rougly that order of importance).

      This may be true for simplest of assembly line jobs, although even there I'd doubt that. But for any developer job (or similar, jobs that need skilled professionals) there's huge differences in productivity.

      My estimation is that difference between minimally adequate (below average but still nominally skilled and/or motivated, that is, able to work to some degree) and average ("normal" skills and motivation) worker is in the order of 3 - 5 times, and between average and excellent further 2 - 3 times. So, roughly speaking, best of employees get as much done as 10 or more "sucky" employees. And that's ignoring the fundamental limitations of "bunch of cheap incompetent idiots" approach, which is that there are some demanding tasks where you just can NOT get things done without skilled, talented, motivated individuals (not all tasks, but some key tasks).

      So, if an employer follows tactics you outlined, here's the likely scenario:

      • By treating employees badly, morale goes down, and productivity suffers significantly, easily to less than half of optimal sustainable productivity, in matter of weeks if not days.
      • By making it known everyone considers everyone to be replaceable, most employees (of any level) start looking for new job. Best ones (that are most productive and skilled) find new job more easily, thus there's significant brain leakage. Below-average people try to hang in there and do not leave involuntarily.
      • Replacing people lost to attrition and lay-offs is costly as well as risky; there's no reliable way to make sure person you hire is as good as you think. Only time will tell. Ones you had you had much better understanding of. So, chances are you won't be hiring better people than you had (assuming originally you very succesful in developing and keeping talent).
      • Training people for specific duties they have takes time (few people get a new job that's _exactly_ like they old one). Even highly skilled professionals take a while to adapt.
      • Newcomers have less reason to be loyal to begin with. Their morale is likely to be neutral, which depending on situation may be better or worse than average employee morale. But in case where it's higher, it _quickly_ lowers to average, as person learns what kind of a rathole job is. In case of existing employees having good morale, it takes longer for morale to raise... but it will happen if things stay good.

      Another big mistake is misunderstanding the role of (monetary) compensation to motivation. Rewards are good, almost independent of size of reward (except of insulting small ones, like those Larry Ellison dolls given as annual bonus). But above and beyond that, money is not much of an incentive to otherwise content people. And for uncontent people, well, it's only temporary relief that soon is forgotten.

      However, the opposite (ie. short-changing employees) does affect morale drastically and quickly. Whereas giving a raise helps a bit in short run, and stabilizes things in long run, salary reduction (or "too low" starting salary) is a quick and effective tool of demoralization. No matter what the situation, that's equivalent to middle finger salute.

      • Re:Are you kidding? (Score:4, Interesting)

        by mystery_boy_x ( 322417 ) on Saturday March 22, 2003 @07:46PM (#5576009) Homepage Journal
        By making it known everyone considers everyone to be replaceable, most employees (of any level) start looking for new job. Best ones (that are most productive and skilled) find new job more easily, thus there's significant brain leakage. Below-average people try to hang in there and do not leave involuntarily.

        My experience suggests that things are more two-tiered. In my last IT job, in which I was hired as a new graduate, the company would periodically retrench people during down times and to cut costs. After about a year, I was retrenched also. The HR chick told me that it was nothing to do with performance, but it was obvious to me that they would not retrench people who they considered had performed well.

        These guru programmers - and there was a sizeable number of them - were told, in performance reviews and elsewhere how valuable the company considered them to be. They were frequently given payrises, promotions and bonuses also. The company would charge through the nose for their services. They could have had no fears about losing their jobs.

        While I would have preferred not to have been retrenched (after being hired as a graduate!) this approach has worked wonders for the company, enabling them to produce high quality work and greatly enlarge their client base.

  • by Ed Random ( 27877 ) on Saturday March 22, 2003 @01:17PM (#5574375) Homepage Journal
    "Firings will continue until morale improves"
    - The Management

    Sorry, couldn't resist ;)
  • How not to do it... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by technik ( 86834 ) on Saturday March 22, 2003 @01:17PM (#5574377) Homepage
    Two years ago I wrote this: Management Techniques of the Bottom 95% of U.S. Corporations [].

    Just take all the advice and reverse it. :)
  • Word Up (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday March 22, 2003 @01:18PM (#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 (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday March 22, 2003 @01:19PM (#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 (Score:5, Insightful)

    by blastedtokyo ( 540215 ) on Saturday March 22, 2003 @01:20PM (#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.

  • HAMMOCKS! (Score:5, Funny)

    by B3ryllium ( 571199 ) on Saturday March 22, 2003 @01:21PM (#5574396) Homepage
    "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.
  • by yellowstone ( 62484 ) on Saturday March 22, 2003 @01:22PM (#5574398) Homepage Journal
    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.
    • by efflux ( 587195 ) on Saturday March 22, 2003 @04:02PM (#5575103)
      Enjoyment and challenge on the job is not something that is pointed out to you; it is something you must find for yourself.

      This sort of presupposes that such oportunities/challenges exist in your work place. Their are environments, typically only in small businesses, where management is so clueless that you can actually find yourself in hot water for proposing ways to get the company out of the IT shithole you're in.

      Case in point: I'm currently working for a bookstore at a university. A few years back we purchased a point of sale and inventory management system. The product we purchased so poorly developed it's egregious. In many instances it just doesn't work, and where it does work we have to go through so many hoops to get it to work, it would be better ditching it altogether. Now, this product also has various web services that are meant to run on our AS/400 server. They allow our customers to perform various activities such as: order a textbook, reserve a textbook, request a textbook adoption (for faculty), and so on. Now, as with most of the products supplied to us by our vendors, these products barely work. This is exceptionally damaging to us as an institution as these are programs that our customers interface with directly. So, I have recently proposed an alternative to management. That we set up a linux server running mySQL, apache, and PHP. We could then create web applications to replace the faulty applications we are now using.

      I've spent quite some time with this proposal: In fact it's turned out to be forty-some page memorandum, complete with research and estimates on how this change would effect our company.

      Now, here's the kicker. Management turned out not to be interested in even looking at the proposal. It seems he's more interested in protecting his image than the company. We've spent over a quarter million dollars on equipment and software alone, not to mention outrageous support fees. He's expressed the opinion that since we've invested so much into this product already, he can't just back out now. You see, it would make it look like he made a bad decision. Not just a bad one, but a very costly one. Since the University is considering outsourcing the bookstore, it is important that his image remain intact. Even if it means that we can barely funciton.

      So, for the time being I am stuck with: Data entry, employee training, finding workarounds, and writing shitty reports and query utilities with Visual Basic (the only thing I've been able to use out of concern for future maintenance--it has to be able to be modified by Joe Random Coder). Damn it. I swear, it seems like nothing I do will actually have any impact. Why, then, should I care?

      FYI: I am a graduate student studying mathematics. I've been with this bookstore for 5 years now. I was hired as an undergraduate student studying Comp Sci. I am now working full time and have education benefits for me and my wife, which is what is keeping me with this employer. And yes, I am at work now. :-7
  • Stop laying off. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ( 142825 ) on Saturday March 22, 2003 @01:23PM (#5574404) Homepage
    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.
  • not much hope... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by gralem ( 45862 ) on Saturday March 22, 2003 @01:24PM (#5574408)

    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.

  • Read (Score:5, Informative)

    by LittleLebowskiUrbanA ( 619114 ) on Saturday March 22, 2003 @01:24PM (#5574409) Homepage Journal
    Read this []. 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 (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Fjord ( 99230 ) on Saturday March 22, 2003 @01:24PM (#5574414) Homepage Journal
    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.
  • Alcohol (Score:5, Interesting)

    by e1en0r ( 529063 ) on Saturday March 22, 2003 @01:25PM (#5574418) Homepage
    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 (Score:5, Interesting)

      by zerocool^ ( 112121 ) on Saturday March 22, 2003 @02:07PM (#5574631) Homepage Journal
      I was just talking about this with my boss yesterday. As to getting tipsy on your lunch break: We don't so much condone it as we ignore it. And we don't so much ignore it as we celebrate it.

      I'm 95% kidding, of course, but alcohol not being on the same list as comming to work on crack definately helps some. You're not afraid to order a draft beer or two with your sandwitch.

      Plus, another big one is how comfortable the employees are in their work environment. We don't have an official uniform. I wear sandals and my Itchy and Scratchy t-shirt to work. BUT I feel more productive because I don't have to deal with wearing a company logo polo shirt and dress shoes.

      A lot of smaller technology firms could benifit from expanding "dress down friday" to everyday. Really, how often do you see your customers? I know of one customer who currently lives in the same town as our office, and he signed up because he knew me. As long as we remain professional on the phone, what does it honestly matter?

      Also: Music. We're allowed to quietly play music at work. Note: QUIETLY, because we have to be able to hear phone conversations, but, we all like different kinds of music (techno, country/classical, punk). Being able to have background music does help.

      Plus, being able to browse websites not strictly related to work helps, too. We just call it "selective trolling" - keep the work URL in the .sig, and that gives us an excuse to read slashdot at work =). We explain to the owner that if we post to slashdot, people will see the link in the .sig file and sign up for service, so he's sort of alright with that.

  • Workplace democracy (Score:5, Interesting)

    by da ( 93780 ) on Saturday March 22, 2003 @01:25PM (#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?
  • Get a purpose (Score:5, Insightful)

    by musicmaster ( 237156 ) on Saturday March 22, 2003 @01:25PM (#5574422) Homepage
    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.
  • by Violet Null ( 452694 ) on Saturday March 22, 2003 @01:26PM (#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.
  • by Verity_Crux ( 523278 ) <notacommie&gmail,com> on Saturday March 22, 2003 @01:27PM (#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.
  • by Skyshadow ( 508 ) on Saturday March 22, 2003 @01:30PM (#5574457) Homepage
    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.

    • by n3k5 ( 606163 ) on Saturday March 22, 2003 @02:13PM (#5574657) Journal
      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.
      This can be horribly overdone. I once had a boss who didn't come into my office to see how things are going a single time in months. He didn't reply to e-mails most of the time, so I had to ambush him in the hallway if I needed a desicion from him, to which he usually replied 'do what you want, I'm sure you'll make it right'. The problem with that wasn't that I was unable to work on my own, but that I had the feeling that no one was interested in my output and that it didn't matter wheter I did anything right.
  • freedom (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Joe the Lesser ( 533425 ) on Saturday March 22, 2003 @01:30PM (#5574464) Homepage Journal
    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 (Score:5, Insightful)

    by srowen ( 206154 ) on Saturday March 22, 2003 @01:32PM (#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.
    • Re:Coding contest (Score:5, Informative)

      by TheRaven64 ( 641858 ) on Saturday March 22, 2003 @04:20PM (#5575181) Journal
      Ask your boss if he/she has read a book called 'Peopleware'. It was out of print when I read it, but a quick google shows that there's a second edition out now. It's the best book on management theory I've ever seen. This was one of the ideas it put forward.

      If you can get hold of a copy, it's well worth the read. It contains some very entertaining stories, some true and some made up to illustrait a point. My favourite is where Alexander Graham Bell is trying to sell his new 'Bell-o-phone', in a modern era which does not have telephones:

      Boss: So, if my employee is busy when this Bell-o-phone rings, what happens? Does it just stop and let them get on with their work?
      Bell: No! That's the best part! It keeps on ringing and ringing until someone answers.
      Boss: Thank you, the door's that way.

      Moral: interrupting your staff is not a good way of making them productive. Another (true) story talks of a CEO who walked into a room full of employees, and signed a major deal without reading it. When queried by one of his lawyers he replied 'I don't read contracts, that's what I pay you guys for.' Moral: Treat your employees with respect. Don't try to do their jobs for them. Your lawyers should know more about contracts than you, and your coders should know more about software development than you. This is why you employ specialists. Their job is to make sure that products work, yours is to make sure the company works.

  • by Stinking Pig ( 45860 ) on Saturday March 22, 2003 @01:32PM (#5574471) Homepage
    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 really lets them know how much you care.

  • by taliver ( 174409 ) on Saturday March 22, 2003 @01:35PM (#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 (Score:4, Insightful)

    by jhagler ( 102984 ) on Saturday March 22, 2003 @01:36PM (#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.
  • by drayzel ( 626716 ) on Saturday March 22, 2003 @01:37PM (#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.

    • by the eric conspiracy ( 20178 ) on Saturday March 22, 2003 @01:45PM (#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.

  • Observations (Score:5, Insightful)

    by The G ( 7787 ) on Saturday March 22, 2003 @01:46PM (#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.
  • by deanj ( 519759 ) on Saturday March 22, 2003 @01:48PM (#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 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.
  • by XNormal ( 8617 ) on Saturday March 22, 2003 @01:54PM (#5574574) Homepage
    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).
  • by Spooker ( 22094 ) on Saturday March 22, 2003 @01:56PM (#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 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 )'s about making a difference in a world that is regaining some of the idealism we thought was 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 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...
  • [excerpt from Dilbert strip] ...
    Dilbert: Any idea why morale is so low?
    Wally: We think it's your breath.
  • Try gaming (Score:5, Interesting)

    by n1ywb ( 555767 ) on Saturday March 22, 2003 @02:01PM (#5574603) Homepage Journal
    At my last job, we were required to play at least one game of fooseball per day, and we had an office-wide Counter Strike game almost every day after work. Even the vice prez played. It was really great for morale and team togetherness.

    Also think about what kind of extra services you can easily offer your employees using existing resources. Set up a webserver where employees can host personal web sites, for example.
  • by ubeans ( 449308 ) on Saturday March 22, 2003 @02:02PM (#5574609) Homepage
    My boss allows me to work from home on Mondays and Fridays. I avoid a long, stressful commute to work, and I save 40% on gasoline. Overall my productivity has increased, and I feel better.

  • My company's motto (Score:4, Interesting)

    by techstar25 ( 556988 ) <> on Saturday March 22, 2003 @02:11PM (#5574651) Journal
    "The way to an engineer's heart is through his/her stomach." It'a all about lots and lots of cookies.

    You should also try loosening up the dress code. At my company (govt comm software and hardware, 1000+ employees) the normal dress for engineers is jeans, sneakers, and a polo shirt. A lot of people even get away with jeans and t-shirts.

    Try compressed work weeks which allow employees to work more hours in fewer days than the usual 8-hour per day schedule. The "4/10" work week is where employees work 10 hours per day over four days. My company uses the 9/80 work week which occurs over a 2-week period as follows: employees work seven 9-hour days in a 2-week period, one 8-hour day and then receive one "free" day off every other week. We have every other Friday off. It only takes a couple of weeks working 9 hours a day before you don't even notice that extra hour a day, and you'll never want to go back to the old schedule.
  • by exp(pi*sqrt(163)) ( 613870 ) on Saturday March 22, 2003 @02:28PM (#5574728) Journal
    If things are bad then trying to raise morale is nothing but an attempt to deceive employees. To try to convince them things are OK when they're not. But employees aren't so stupid. Nothing tells an employee that their company is in trouble more than morale boosting exercises from management.
  • by Loundry ( 4143 ) on Saturday March 22, 2003 @02:38PM (#5574767) Journal
    Granted, I own a retail shop with only a few employees, but I have worked as a programmer and have seen both the best and the worst of management. It has helped me know how to treat (and how not to treat) my employees:

    What to do:
    • Make it very clear to each individual employee what she/he needs to do to be promoted. Do this openly, consistently, and frequently.
    • Your employees' families are much more important than your job your you are to them. If you respect and show concern for and interest in their families, then they will like working for you. If you do the opposite, you will get the opposite result.
    • Always be ready to take a few for the team. My business for a while was making money, but not that much. After I took my draw, I realized that I was paying my part-time hourly employee more than I was paying myself. Your employees are more likely to make sacrifices for your company if you make sacrifices for your company.
    • Be positive even in the face of disaster.
    • Praise your employees for specific behaviors. Focus on their strengths.
    • If your employee has a problem, be a grown-up about it and help them problem solve. Do not criticize. If they can't fix the problem even with your help, then you should probably be looking to replace them. Your talented and hard-working employees won't tolerate your coddling a poor performer.
    • Be honest and honorable with your customers. Your employees will know it if you are not, and they will think, "If he will do that to his customer, then what will he do to me?"

    What NOT to do:
    • Do not lie.
    • Do not accuse, berate, criticize, condemn, complain, or condescend to an employee, coworker, customer, hell, anyone. Those are childish, unprofessional choices, and you will never have good morale if you are unprofessional.
    • Do not express worry, even if you are (of course, worrying is violating the "be positive" rule ).
    • Do not tolerate employees who behave unprofessionally. Problem-solve or fire them.

    Just a few thoughts. I'm still a newbie. If you're an employee, and you want to increase your company morale, forget it. I suggest finding a new employer.
  • by Art_XIV ( 249990 ) on Saturday March 22, 2003 @02:48PM (#5574812) Journal
    The company I work for had a new salesperson. This guy had previously sold ERP systems, and now he was going to try to sell our companies development services.

    This really happened - I was walking by his office and spotted him reading a copy of Java for Dummies. Yes -- a salesperson.

    He explained that he felt he should know at least a little something about programming if he was going to try to sell our services as developers.


    How many of you have spent endless hours explaining geek crap to sales/marketing/management nitwits who didn't have a clue and didn't care that they didn't have a clue?

    Well... needless to say... he was canned a few months later by a clueless superior.
  • by neo654 ( 581025 ) on Saturday March 22, 2003 @02:53PM (#5574833)
    It's guaranteed to improve morale.
  • by nurb432 ( 527695 ) on Saturday March 22, 2003 @02:54PM (#5574835) Homepage Journal
    Why should they care about your morale?

    The market is different, they have the upper hand currently with the high unemployment rates.

    If you are not productive, or a trouble maker, they can find a replacement for you.

    A few years ago it was different, and they had to keep people at any cost. But that is not the case now. Be happy you are even employed.
  • by heli0 ( 659560 ) on Saturday March 22, 2003 @02:56PM (#5574844)
    Peter Gibbons: So I was sitting in my cubicle today, and I realized, ever since I started working, every single day of my life has been worse than the day before it. So that means that every single day that you see me, that's on the worst day of my life.
    Dr. Swanson: What about today? Is today the worst day of your life?
    Peter Gibbons: Yeah.
    Dr. Swanson: Wow, that's messed up!
  • by Alethes ( 533985 ) on Saturday March 22, 2003 @03:27PM (#5574968)
    Those are the two things everyone has to do to be happy.

    1) Be thankful that you have a job at all. There are a lot of guys that would kill for your job right now -- even if it's not exactly fun.

    2) Be patient and wait for the economy to pick up. It HAS to pick up at some point.

    Being thankful and patient are a choice. They are contagious, and when you, as an individual, apply them to your own job, your co-workers will eventually pick up on it as well. Conversely, if you choose to complain and make that the norm, your co-workers will also pick up on that and morale will suffer accordingly.
  • The Hacker FAQ (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Jonah Hex ( 651948 ) <> on Saturday March 22, 2003 @03:30PM (#5574980) Homepage Journal
    All companies should make reading the Hacker FAQ [] mandatory for all employees. Even IBM uses the Hacker FAQ!

    My personal favorite:
    0.2: How should I manage my hacker?
    The same way you herd cats. It can be a bit confusing; they're not like most other workers. Don't worry! Your hacker is likely to be willing to suggest answers to problems, if asked. Most hackers are nearly self-managing.

    Jonah Hex
  • by louissypher ( 155011 ) on Saturday March 22, 2003 @03:41PM (#5575022) Homepage Journal
    Taken from in Dec. (Jo Anne was soon fired afterwards, go figure).

    From: Jo Anne Miller
    To: Gluon - Site - All
    Sent: 12/6/2002 3:03 PM
    Subject: Commitment Message from the ALL HANDS MEETING
    Importance: High

    As those who were present at the All Hands Meeting this morning already
    know, I am seeking the PERSONAL Commitment of everyone at Gluon to the
    Release 2.1 development schedule. I expect a return email from all the
    staff to tell me if they can step up and make the commitment to DO
    2.1 ready for field trial milestone of January 20, 2003 and ready to
    deploy milestone of February 21, 2003. I also need to know if you will
    volunteer to be here the week of December 23-27 and Dec. 30-Jan. 4.

    Please consider this decision carefully. Don't say yes if you don't
    believe that you and your fellow Gluon teammates can make this happen.
    Don't say yes, if you aren't ready to find bugs, fix bugs, document the
    product and get this ready to go out the door. Don't say yes if you are
    too burned out to look forward to continued late nights, long hours and
    stretch milestones.

    Now more than ever, the Gluon team must have the start-up/do whatever it
    takes mentality. If any of you are not of that mentality anymore, have
    personal/family issues that prohibit you from making the full
    commitment, please tell me that as well and I will do whatever I can to
    assist you to find a job outside of Gluon.

    I am attaching the four key slides from the all hands related to our
    commitment to refresh your memory of what is required and why.

    Looking forward to hearing back from everyone

    Jo Anne Miller
    Gluon Networks, Inc.
    5401 Old Redwood Hwy.
    Petaluma, CA 94954

  • Promote internally (Score:5, Insightful)

    by fleener ( 140714 ) on Saturday March 22, 2003 @03:57PM (#5575078)
    Recognize the quality veteran employees you have by promoting them.

    Nothing distresses the rank and file more than to have a new manager every one or two years who appears, changes the direction of a project (or kills it outright), and then leaves and is replaced by another manager who shakes things up.

    You need people who know the company's history, its people and abilities, and have a vested interest in the company's future.
  • ages ago (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Bowdie ( 11884 ) on Saturday March 22, 2003 @04:21PM (#5575183) Homepage
    I worked a summer job in a laundry. One day midweek, I looked up from the %meaningless task% I was doing to see the owner of the entire chain helping fold sheets.

    I asked how often he does this, to which he replied "Whenever I feel like a change".

    The girls on the line really liked it. He didn't have his own table at mealtimes, didn't have his own parking space, and you could call him "dave".

    Ace fella. And even though the job was shit, most people were happy at it.
  • by Salo2112 ( 628590 ) on Saturday March 22, 2003 @04:26PM (#5575199)
    Memo to management:
    1. I want to be left alone to do my job. No OSHA training (I can use a fire extinguisher without any explanation from the "Risk Manager," thank you), no safety training (I could not care less about the MSDS sheets - I'm in an office, for God's sake), no sexual harassment/sensitivity training and no drug awareness in the workplace meetings. Do not waste my time on bullshit meetings/classes that have nothing to do with my job.
    2. I come in early, work late and work on weekends. If you see me leaving or arriving outside of my scheduled hours, don't worry about it: you're way ahead on the deal.
    3. If I can only use my email or web connection for business use, fine: quit allowing people to send broadcast emails about Relay for Life, Blood Drives and Girl Scout Cookies. Either it's for business, or it isn't. Don't allow other people to clutter up my mailbox for "good causes" if I can't send/receive jokes.
    4. I am low maintenance, but is it too much to ask that you *not* turn off the fucking hot water heaters and ac units to save money at 4:00 pm every day? Some of us work outside normal hours.
    5. If one of my cow-orkers misbehaves, I expect that he be punished. I do not expect that new policies be put in place that have the effect of punishing those of use who did not cause the problem to begin with.
    6. Don't lie to me. I'm a big boy, I can handle the truth.
    7. Don't get mad at me when I tell the truth.
  • UT (Score:5, Funny)

    by HBI ( 604924 ) on Saturday March 22, 2003 @04:30PM (#5575218) Journal
    I manage a small infrastructure team (6 people). We take time out at lunch and at the end of the day (after 5) to play a couple maps of UT.

    We name the bots after users we hate, or French presidents.

    After 15 or 20 minutes of intense fragging, morale is restored.
  • by javabandit ( 464204 ) on Saturday March 22, 2003 @04:33PM (#5575227)
    11 things developers can do

    (not in any particular order)

    1) Read "Code Complete" and "Design Patterns". Others will be thankful... trust me.

    2) Have pride in what you do. Programming IS an art. It requires talent, practice, motiviation, inspiration, creativity, and experience to write good code. Know your craft.

    3) Eliminate the KINGDOMS on your team. That is, one person should not solely own one part of the system... hence a "king". Make sure at least two people are knowledgeable about one part of a system.

    4) Utilitize tried-and-true design patterns. These are your brushes and your paints.

    5) Be politically aware in code reviews. Take constructive criticism constructively and remove your ego. If a reviewer is suggesting that you make a minor change, and the change doesn't harm anything... DO IT. Being inclusive of others' ideas in your code will make everyone happy.

    6) When reviewing other people's code, don't be superficially critical. Programmers have different styles. A car, on the outside, may not appeal to you, but it doesn't mean that it isn't a well built/designed vehicle.

    7) When designing (or refactoring) portions of code, have design reviews (informal or formal) with at least one other developer. Bounce all your ideas and thoughts. Get ideas and thoughts in return. Use your whiteboard for goodness sakes. That's what it is there for.

    8) Praise other developers when they do well. Programmers need to know when they're doing good as well as bad. Programmers appreciate praise from other programmers more than they do from anyone else.

    9) When you have to be critical of someone else's code, be constructive. Apply honesty with a feather... not with a sledge hammer. Instead of saying, "What the fuck??? You're not threadsafe and possibly creating multi-tons."... say... "Do you think that synchronizing this singleton might work here better... so we're threadsafe?"... for example.

    10) Be consistent in your code. It makes your code more easily maintained by others.

    11) Document. Please write comments. Don't be so egotistical to think that your code is self-documenting. Even in COBOL and Eiffel... the two most verbose languages on the planet... this isn't the case.

  • by ddt ( 14627 ) <> on Saturday March 22, 2003 @04:40PM (#5575246) Homepage
    Before you hire on to a company, please, for the love of Pete, find out how it's funded.

    If they started from nothing, got three rounds totalling $100Mish from VC over the past 2-3ish years and don't have a shipping product to show for it, absolutely don't work there. VC money means that the company needs to be on the fast track to acquisition or IPO, which means that layoffs that cut burn rate will make the company more attractive to investors while the product is busy slipping.

    If it's funded by an angel investor or angel pool, then find out everything you can about their personalities, their investment portfolios, how much they're worth and how much this venture, based on its burn rate, is likely to be straining them.

    If it's funded by the people managing it, these, in my experience, are usually the best companies to work for. It's their daily routine on the line, in addition to their cash.

    Find out if management has worked at companies where they've conducted layoffs before. They will likely do it again.

    Find out if the company has ever missed payroll. If they have, do not assume this is a bad thing. Particularly if everyone stayed on board, this can be a positive thing, and it means management doesn't fire people at the first sign of cashflow problems. If missed payrolls happen all the time, then figure out, based on how often it happens, what your actual salary would be, counting the missed paychecks. It's really no different from saying that you are going to be paid a lower salary. As long as you are planning for missed payrolls, they won't really be missed.

    Find out how you are going to split profits on the product. If it's just an ephemeral hand-waving promise that profits will be split, don't take the job. If it's just stock options, don't take the job. If it's going to be a subjective percentage of a pool based on performance, consider taking it if the deciding personalities strike you as fair, well-balanced people. If it's going to be a fixed percentage base with subjective bonuses, then absolutely take the job. None of this is real unless you get it on paper. So make sure you have that piece of paper the day you show up for work.

    Most employees believe in the myth of salaries, and their precious, surprised little faces when they learn that there is no Santa Claus never cease to amaze me. Income comes into most companies in large, unwieldy piles of cash, not perfectly metered little bundies of biweekly love. So understand that salaries are a fiction, that exist to create the illusion of stability while lowering the employee's compensation for work over the long haul. We have come to depend on them because we, as individuals, have lost the discipline to save and manage money.

    Always, always, always ask how much cash is in the bank right now. Always, always, always ask what the company burn rate is. Do the simple math, and plan to start looking for a job 2-3 months before that money runs out, assuming that they won't make a single penny in the interim or enjoy any further loans or investment.

    Watch company growth. Ask every month or two what the new burn rate is. Do curve-fitting to get a more accurate idea of when the bank account goes empty.

    Most people take salaried jobs because they don't want to sweat over the company bank account. Sweat it. You're just burying your head in the sand if you don't. Let the fear of that going zero motivate you. And let the excitement of seeing a percentage of those proceeds motivate you.

    Morale is usually a function of how well the product is coming together. If it's making exciting progress, catching up, or God forbid, surpassing the competition, investors will usually continue to jump on until the product ships. This is always the first-order response for morale. People love working on good product.

    Odds are, if you're in a web development company, your demand has dried up, you're competing with several other development companies also desperate for wo
  • by Sounder40 ( 243087 ) on Saturday March 22, 2003 @04:59PM (#5575313)
    According to this article in E-Commerce Times [] the Meta Group has just published a paper saying that IT employee burnout is reaching critical levels:
    A majority of IT managers say IT employee burnout is now a serious issue in their organizations, according to a recent study by research firm Meta Group. Among the many areas of high concern to IT departments this year, few are as evident as employee morale, the report states.

    Before I lost my job to a layoff, (my job was outsourced oversees) I was doing the work of several, and constantly worried that layoffs and outsourcing were coming.

    I'm now considering a whole new career in a completely unrelated field...

  • Yeah. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Renraku ( 518261 ) on Saturday March 22, 2003 @05:10PM (#5575362) Homepage
    I got fired from ClientLogic without warning. The morale of the place among the workers wasn't very good. Seems everyone I talked to had some bitchfest about the place daily. The turnover rate was very high, because they were being bitchslapped around by Bellsouth. Their rules were archaic, and we were stuffed into cubicles, not one, but two at a time. Forced to run programs that crash every five minutes, and forced to be tech support, sales AND customer service. Not to mention that promotion was only a $.10/hr increase in pay. Add to that the fact that the vending machines were always broken and that they regularly lay off half of their staff where I worked, and you get low morale. I heard through the grapevine that we were getting paid $5 less than what we should have. And we were missing benefits. All so the company could profit a little more. ClientLogic was getting paid almost as much for giving us the privilige of working for them as we were busting our asses for them! And they slashed our benefits.
  • by hacker ( 14635 ) <> on Saturday March 22, 2003 @06:06PM (#5575590)
    The company went from over 500 people to under 200 in under two years.

    My last job (incidentally, 70 weeks ago, unable to find work since) required me to relocate 3,100 miles from the Right coast to the Left coast, to work for them, leaving a very stable job behind. A week after I got there, my hiring manager was fired, along with 76 other people. We were 250 people at the time.

    Over the next 14 months, we went through 5 rounds of layoffs, including the last one which liquidated my entire department, leaving me as the only person standing. Even my boss was let go.

    In 18 months time, we had gone from 250 people to 30, and were on our 4th CEO. All three founders had resigned, two failed merger deals (one with a company that just recently bit the dust themselves), two sexual harassment suits pending against the first CEO and his team, and it only got worse from there.

    We originally had free vending machines, but those were soon turned into pay-only machines. The senior management team had free parking in a mostly-empty garage space, and we had to pay $20.00-per-day to park across the street. The middle-management groups were internally promoting themselves, laying off more and more people, and making the remaining people work longer and longer hours, for less pay. We were earning (as developers) roughly 1/4 of what the managers were earning at the time. They were working 4-day weeks, 5 hour days, feet up on the desks, while we were camping in the offices overnight sometimes to meet customer deliverables.

    Every day, people would come in wondering if "..they were next". That's not a nice way to come to work, not wondering if you're going to lose your job, but when.

    In November 2001, I decided to pack up my things, and resign. The company wasn't going to survive a 6th round of layoffs, and now with the board in control, they had changed direction, completely tarnishing their name with the Open Source community. I moved back 3,100 miles to the Right coast, and haven't been able to find a job since (yes, it's incredibly tough out here).

    After I left, they worked on a product, and after the remaining developers completed version 1.0 of the product, and delivered it, they were all fired, en-masse.

    How's that for morale for you?

  • by wdr1 ( 31310 ) < minus punct> on Saturday March 22, 2003 @06:36PM (#5575729) Homepage Journal
    It's more stable now, but people are consistently laid-off.

    This is the problem. You have to lump the bad news and spread out the good. Employees are willing to understand layoffs. People are surprisingly understanding of how a buisness needs to adapt, and how that adapation can, unfortunetly, lead to layoffs. As long as you take care of those being laid off (e.g., solid serverence pay, extension of health benifits, assistance finding a new job, etc.), both those let go and those staying behind will show suprising resiliance.

    However, if your consistently laying off people, that means upper management does not have a clue of what is going on, and will undercut any confidence in the company. People need to be able to focus on their day to day responsiblities and get their job done; not worry if they're going to have a job in 48 hours.

    All the other suggestions, flex-time, etc. are great, but you have to fix the fundamental problem before you can get to those. If you have a bad transmission, you don't try to fix it by getting a pair of fuzzy dice.


  • by IanBevan ( 213109 ) on Saturday March 22, 2003 @08:02PM (#5576107) Homepage
    A couple of simple rules have always helped me with the morale of my team. If morale is poor, I nearly always point at one of these things and realise that I/my company is not doing it: 1. Clear, achievable deadlines
    2. The best tools and equipment for the job (within reason obviously)
    3. Insulation from the most insideous company politics and hopeless project managers.
    4. Wages in the upper bracket of the industry for each role
  • by crazyphilman ( 609923 ) on Sunday March 23, 2003 @12:03AM (#5576936) Journal
    As a currently very happy employee myself, I can tell you what specific conditions exist at my job that make me happy. Most of these conditions are a function of the job being A) unionized, and therefore solid with good benefits and a living wage, and B) in government, so there is a well-thought out bureaucracy in place to keep things running smoothly. BUT, the specific happiness inducing effects shouldn't be too hard to replicate in private industry -- IF the bosses want them to be. So, as a public service message from moi, here are the factors which lead to happiness:

    1. Pay your employees a living wage, and AT LEAST give them medical and dental. Note that this doesn't mean you have to make them rich! But if you're not paying them at LEAST in the 40K range, they're going to be too busy worrying about getting their rent money together, to worry about YOUR work. In places like NYC or Boston, better make that 60K or your employees will be living in cardboard boxes.

    2. Don't breathe down your employees' necks. Where I work, the bosses leave you alone as long as you produce. So, if your employees aren't missing deadlines, leave them alone and let them do their stuff. When managing programmers (as with herding cats) less == more. Just tell them to keep you posted on their progress, at least once a week (say, Friday before COB). If you need to find out how something is doing, ask casually (this is good because it shows interest and lets the programmer know he's not forgotten). The trick is to LET the programmers produce instead of trying to force it. You'll find they come to YOU to tell you how things are going, because people like to talk about what they're doing. And they'll like you more (this does matter).

    3. Don't be anal about when programmers come and go. We're not the most precise people when it comes to getting up in the morning, or going home at night. We may get in a half hour late and leave two hours late at night -- you get a free hour and a half, and we barely notice. But if you enforce business hours, we get pissed and come in and leave on a much more exact schedule.

    4. Casual dress code. This means, generally, something comfortable but tasteful, like jeans and a polo shirt. Don't enforce the whole "dockers and sky blue shirt" thing (god, that is SO over), or (worse) suits. If you're uncomfortable, you're worried about stretching your shirt collar, not coding that loop. This doesn't mean you have to let them walk in in a kilt and a see-through rubber shirt, either. But, let them be comfy.

    5. Cubicle decoration (within the limits of good taste) should be encouraged. A cluttered, chaotic cubicle is a happy, productive cubicle. A pile of paper on a desk is a sign of activity. Don't sweat stuff like this.

    6. Coffee. Lots of coffee. Don't skimp on the sugar and half-and-half, either, or no one will drink the coffee and that's like no coffee. Any old coffee pot will do as long as the coffee is a reasonable, good brand and when people notice the pot is empty, they can set a new one on to brew. I can't stress the importance of caffeine and sugar to programmers enough. They WILL find ways of acquiring it; if you don't supply it, they'll be taking breaks to make coffee runs. Which do you prefer; three minutes to fill the mug at the office coffee pot, or fifteen minutes to walk a block to the Starbucks, with you playing Spy Games to figure out who's going where and when?

    7. When nothing serious is going on, let the programmers do pilot projects that will eventually be good for the department. You can direct this a little; if you know, say, that you're going to be using some specific set of email tools, mention it to a programmer who isn't too busy and ask him to fiddle around with it and see what he can make it do. Then, keep the source code around for when the project ramps up. Remember: idle hands are the devil's playthings.

    That's about all you have to do, really, to keep people happy. Leave them alone, let them do their thing, keep up the supply of interesting things to do, don't push them unless you really have to, feed them lots of coffee, and let them dress comfortably.

  • by mcguyver ( 589810 ) on Sunday March 23, 2003 @12:49AM (#5577061) Homepage
    How to improve your companies morale:
    Step 1: Be part of a successful company.
    Step 2: Do not lay people off.
    Step 3: See Step 1.

    Although you already answered your question, people feel like they always have to look over their shoulder to avoid getting fired. Bottom line - your company is the problem. No amount of booze, yoga, flex hours, massages or magic pixie dust are going to increase morale. Odds are the stigmatism from laying off 300 people is still in the air. My suggestion is do one of two things - find a new job or be content with your situation.

I have the simplest tastes. I am always satisfied with the best. -- Oscar Wilde