This is the first part (of 3) about How Not To inspire struggling employees.
In my early career, I had a number of jobs which, for various reasons, paid less than they should have, resulting in financial struggles for me and my family. There were three particular incidents, at different companies, which exemplify very poor understanding of the situation and demonstrate a boss utterly failing to instill any sense of confidence or hope for any improvement.
It should be noted that I chose to leave each of these companies, and all of them went out of business fairly soon thereafter. I present them in chronological order, starting (appropriately) with the first:
The situation: I had a dual position which involved both management and development responsibilities, in different areas of the business (service/repairs and consulting, respectively). I accepted lower weekly pay in exchange for an annual bonus plan that seemed good at the time. Alas, the bonus was not paid on time (and actually took almost a year to receive, in pieces, until I took an “in kind” payment two weeks before the next, larger, annual bonus was due). More relevant, though, is that I worked may way up to being the senior employee, #3 in the company behind the two owners, finding to my chagrin that meant my paychecks were more likely to be late, and usually by a full pay period.
The incident: The boss presented me with my W-2 for the previous year and proclaimed, seemingly with some misplaced pride (or something): “Look! I only made $200 more than you did last year.“
Let’s see… The company owes me a couple of weeks of past wages, most of my annual “bonus”, and I am having great difficulty making ends meet as a single person living in an efficiency apartment with minimal expenses. To quote a line from one of my favorite sitcoms, Coupling (the hilarious British one, of course), “What part of your brain thought that was a good thing to say?”
The lessons: If a paycheck is late (more than once) or a promised bonus is not paid, it is time to find another job. If the owner of the company has to live on ramen noodles, yet the checks are late anyway, find a different job now.