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My employer has been through a lot over the last year and a half -- corporate restructuring, merger, and resulting chaos (which we hope is temporary, but you never know). My team has lost about half of its people during that time, including previous managers. Reqs to hire replacements aren't being approved (tight budget). We've dropped some work that our team used to do; we're not being asked to work long hours to make up the difference.

The budget for raises was poor this year across the board, which is a hygiene issue as much as a financial one. I fear that this will aggravate an already-shaky situation. I'm a remote worker, not privy to the water-cooler chit-chat, and even I can tell that morale has taken a dive.

We had a very good team, and we still have enough of a good team to do great things, if people stay. I like the company (current issues aside), I like the product we're working on, and I like my teammates. I think these things are true for most of my remaining teammates too.

In terms of industry experience and job grade, I am one of the most senior individual contributors on the team and I have a great deal of autonomy. Most of my teammates have been there a little longer than I have. I'm not a manager, have no budget, and am remote to most of the team. Travel for internal meetings isn't currently being approved.

What steps can I take to improve morale, with the specific goal of preventing more attrition at least in the short term? Cheerleading is not my style; I'm more of a "model desired behavior" kind of person. I've also been told that I'm a pretty strong leader, at least on technical initiatives, but I don't know how to apply that to this problem.

I am aware of How can I as non-management improve morale and curb infectious pessimism?, but I think this question is different because the causes of the problems are different and because of the remote aspect.

  • It really sounds like you're "better than your company", MC. Go somewhere else - it will boost your morale tremendously :) – Fattie Dec 18 '17 at 19:38
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My suggestions will require some level of permission from senior management but no significant cost other than your time.

  1. Write an internal blog. Just your thoughts on the product you guys are building, related news in media, or just about business or personality development like some new team working strategy. Your colleagues should still read and frequently comment on it to make it meaningful but if that happens it would certainly make you and others feel more involved in company's success. There are several commercial tools which does that (like Yammer ) and there are several open-source ones also available like Slack.

  2. Make an internal video series of any technology which is needed for your product and the specific aspects of the technology which your employees in your team should learn. Any other DIY self-learning material and with benefit to your company would be a great motivation for you and for your team as well. If your management allows, it can be simply be a youtube private channel accessible only with accounts registered with email domain of your company.

Like I said, these things do need some convincing to management (even though there is no cost) and then making people read blog or watch videos. If it is really planned well, it can happen and if it does, I do think it will help improve companies morale without you travelling.

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It is quite possible that the best course of action to achieve your goal is to do nothing.

The budget "crisis" in a time of economic recovery is poor planning from upper management. Chances are that your colleagues are being headhunted by competitors, who are now growing instead of shrinking. The only alternative to budget increases now is a believable promise for budget increases soon. E.g. quite a few companies will publish their FY2017 results early in 2018. Your colleagues may be waiting for that.

Here's the problem with such "morale boosts". They may be interpreted as alternatives for the necessary budget increases. Your colleagues might think

"If that's all the company has to offer, then moving to the competitor is the smart choice. I'm not going to wait another year."

The problem here is that you have no idea what the company is planning. Your ideas might preempt management decisions that they cannot announce yet. So, just leave the people management to the managers.

Also, keep in mind that your colleagues may have been right. Even if you're not actively looking for a new job, the budget crisis might be artificial to reduce headcount without actively firing people. If that is the case, and not enough people leave voluntarily, it might be followed by a round of layoffs. The fact that many companies reduce headcount after mergers is a bad sign, in that respect.

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