This is the second (middle) part of How Not To inspire struggling employees.
[Please see my previous post for background.]
The situation: I had a programming position at an independent game development company. Scratch that. I had the programming position (remaining), and in an attempt to get our game finished, I had (very foolishly) taken a pay cut down to minimum wage, albeit with the possibility of overtime up to 80 hours. In order to make ends meet, I then had to work 80 hours every week. Since I (and my pregnant wife) lived 30 miles away, I often had to sleep in the office to save both time and gas money. This took a toll on my health, my finances, and my marriage (and needless to say, I would never do that again).
The incident: One of the (two) bosses told me one day that his personal bank account had dipped below $10,000 and continued, “I get nervous when it gets that low.“
There I was, working the equivalent of two full time jobs, yet still only able to afford gas to see my wife (who was unable to work due to a difficult pregnancy) some nights, and of course stressed beyond belief. So my boss thinks that he will get better productivity by commiserating about having “money problems” while demonstrating a complete lack of understanding of my situation. Hmm…
The lessons: Never accept a pay cut to finish a project, especially if you are a critical developer (unless, of course, you can afford it and stand to profit handsomely when the product is completed). Working 80 hours per week on a sustained basis is counterproductive. If you are an employer, make sure that your developers can at least afford basic necessities, and certainly do not detail how you are at a whole different economic level (if applicable).