#129 from R&D
Innovator Volume 3, Number 11
“Benefits” from Downsizing
year-and-a-half ago, my group, as well as others in my company,
underwent a significant downsizing.
One of our older product lines was dropped.
We lost not only able technical staff, but also some people
with higher degrees. I
had managed this group for five years, and we had become a close
and effective team. With
the loss of almost half the staff, we were devastated.
Morale plummeted and rumors flew.
I must admit that
my interest in further managing this group was flagging, and every
conversation dwelled on misery.
I couldn’t imagine we would succeed, in such an
atmosphere, solving any difficult technical problem.
Even though my position was pretty stable, I just wasn't
“into it.” In fact, I spent most of my energy looking for another
But since no one
was offering me a job, it looked as if I’d just have to make the
best of a miserable situation.
I felt I needed to become closer to each of my staff
members, so I started by doing something new:
I invited my staffers, and their spouses, for a party at my
house one Saturday afternoon.
I also bought fancy pastries for our weekly meetings, and
spent more time talking to each person in his or her office or
lab. Before, most of
my one-on-ones had been in my
In general, I
dedicated myself to converting the atmosphere from negative to
positive. I made a
point of not complaining about the "dumkopf" decisions
of our president, which had been a regular topic of my
I focused on how we would attack each new project and why we were
just the right group for it.
When a discussion began flowing toward pessimism, I tried
to redirect it toward something positive.
For example, I stressed that our work could play a
significant role in making the company the industry leader; and that, in turn, should increase the value of each one of
about everyone became more comfortable about their own security
and about achieving project goals.
In fact, our morale was higher than ever--even in the
"good old days." We
were actually doing more with fewer resources, which caused
management to give us even more responsibilities (without more
help). But we
didn’t complain; in fact, we took the new assignments as a sign
of management's confidence in us.
never thought I was a particularly good manager--basically, I left
everyone alone. However,
this emotional experience has given me more confidence in handling
difficult management problems.
I’m happy to say that others have also seen my
potential--I was just promoted to division director!
Perhaps the most important result of this experience is
that several of my staff independently mentioned that they
appreciated how I’d managed them.
No one ever said that before.