Taking the ‘Yes’ approach to avoiding layoffs

Q. As a small business owner, I can’t offer the types of benefits large corporations can. Are there things I can do that don’t cost a lot of money to retain employees?A. As a small business owner you actually have some advantages over larger organizations with typically more generous employee benefits. A “Begin with Yes” approach suggests that you focus not on those things outside of your control (including expensive benefits you can’t afford) and focus instead on things you do control (how your employees are treated).You might want to start by making a list of low-cost/no-cost things that you would appreciate if you were an employee working for a small company. You might broaden the information gathering to include a small group of your employees to take a look at the list, which almost certainly would include flexible, family-friendly practices, employee recognition and a fun environment.Once you have a list of ideas, prioritize them and implement a few. Then get feedback and staff reaction and adjust accordingly. As a small employer you actually have an edge. I hope you’ll take advantage of it.Q. There is a mindset in my organization that the “status quo” is fine. I think more in terms of “what is possible.” Is there a future for me here?A. Probably not. Being a “good fit” is so important both for the employee and the employer. Would you rather be on a boat sailing in a direction you all agree is practical and good, or on the Titanic, trying to convince the captain there’s an iceberg ahead?While you’re still with the status quo company, stay positive and do your very best. At the same time, keep your eyes open. I think you’ll be able to find a more “possibility focused” company to work for. Good luck.Q. How can I cut costs during a market downturn without conducting layoffs?A. How to cut costs is a very company specific question, and involves getting your workforce involved in identifying areas where costs can be cut. At the same time, and perhaps even more importantly, I would get people focused on ways to enhance revenue. In my experience, there are almost always more opportunities to increase revenue than opportunities to cut expenses.Getting your employees involved in creatively seeking new dollars can actually be fun and engaging, and gives people a chance to help keep the company solvent and employees working. You have my admiration! The more that we focus on saving our workforce, the sooner we’ll all be able to collectively turn our economy in more positive directions.Q. Is it appropriate for me as a CEO to have a blog?A. I don’t think there’s a right answer to this one. A lot would depend on the business, the blog content, the style and personality of the CEO, and how compatible the blog message is with the company’s mission, vision and brand. You shouldn’t lose sight of how important social media has become.For many companies, a blog by the CEO would enhance the company in many ways. At the same time, remember the power of the Internet. I don’t think you should be afraid of a blog, but I do think you need to be careful and thoughtful in your posts.Q. We work in an office where everyone is in cubicles. A noisy co-worker is driving me crazy. How do I teach her “cubicle etiquette” without sounding like a jerk?A. “Sounding like a jerk” has more to do with how the message is delivered and often less to do with the actual message.I am assuming that if you’re in a cubicle environment, you’re not the only person bothered by your inconsiderate or at least insensitive workmate. And I agree that the situation warrants some reasonable attitudes and also believe it can be resolved without anyone sounding or feeling “like a jerk.”My gut tells me this isn’t your job, and more than that, that you’re not the best person for the job.My suggestion is to reach out to your human resources department or department head. I think you’ll get the support you need, followed by a small group training on reasonable cubicle etiquette. If that doesn’t work, then the likely follow-up will include more specific training, and possibly disciplinary action, to those that don’t conform to the agreed-upon company culture.Paul Boynton, president and CEO of The Moore Center, Manchester, is also a personal coach, corporate consultant, motivational speaker, host of the television show, “Begin with Yes” and author of the book by the same name. He can be reached at beginwithyes@comcast.net. For more information, visit beginwithyes.com.