by Christi L. Gibson | December 15, 2008
Dear Christi:

We are a major supplier to the auto world, and our employees are extremely anxious over the bailout situation. Right now, we have plenty of work because of our other partners but employees are still concerned. Any ideas on how to keep them motivated during difficult times?

—Margaret, Detroit

Dear Margaret:

First, I recommend being completely honest with your employees regarding your particular situation. An employee/employer relationship must be first built on respect and trust. Communicate with them on a timely basis and express your concerns. Detail your organization's options if the bailout goes through, and if it does not. People are most afraid of the unexpected outcome of events, so by showing your employees the possibilities you will help to ease some of their fears.

Here are a few ideas of ways to motivate your employees during difficult times:

1. Offer paid time off, such as a half or full day off, to allow them to spend time with their family and friends.

2. Offer freedom to dress casually for the rest of the year! Freedom to take one or two long, leisurely lunches.

3. Turn the holiday spirit into valuable team-building. Organize a competition within departments of your company.

a. Break into small groups of 4 or 5
b. Give each a gingerbread house kit.
c. Allow them to add anything they want to it (as long it is edible).
d. The winning team can receive the "Giant Gingerbread" award, which could be a certificate for treats at a local bakery or an extra hour for lunch.
e. Donate all of the gingerbread houses to local nursing homes to extend the joy of the holidays to others.

Dear Christi:

Historically, every department gives the founder of our company a holiday gift. It is because he has a ton of hobbies from old movies to classic cars. In other words, it has been fun to find stuff on eBay and everyone pitches in to present him with cool stuff at the party, which we have on New Years Eve. This year the employees aren't in the mood when they feel the economy is hurting them and the founder is sitting pretty. But the founder probably expects something…Any ideas on how we can make this palpable for the employees and not embarrass the CEO? (By the way, our company is profitable).

—Ronald, N. Miami Beach, Fl.

Dear Ronald:

Your employees may want to look at an alternative present for your founder this year. (It sounds as if your employees would rather give your founder a goat.) So I say let them! Have your employees give your founder a goat, some chickens or a camel. Several charitable organizations offer you the opportunity to "send" livestock to areas in the world that need livestock to help them survive. A goat provides milk and cheese. Chickens provide eggs. A fruit tree will help a family by giving produce to sell. Livestock can give people in impoverished areas a mode for making a living.

Another thought may be to have your employees adopt an animal at a nearby zoo. Many zoos invite you to support your favorite animal year after year. These programs allow your employees and company to help ensure that one of the zoo residents receives the best possible care. Your organization can adopt one or multiple animals. Your founder would be sent (depending on how much your organization donates) items such as free tickets to the zoo, personalized certificate identifying your chosen animal, magnets and/or decals.

Your founder will probably truly appreciate receiving a gift of this type and your employees will feel good about giving a gift that helps others. So give him a goat or Guinea Baboon—either way, it may prove to be a win/win for all.