Q:  My boss is always bragging about how much money he saves on inputs, how he "talked the neighbor down on that tractor," and how he "twisted the buyer’s arm" to get more money for his pigs.

I know this is good business, but he also brags to me about how ‘cheap’ he got someone hired.  It’s all he talks about. How do we know when he’s gone too far cutting his costs?

A: Several years ago, a couple that I knew tended to brag about how they could save money. On their anniversary they would go to the greeting card section of the local department store, pick out cards for each other to read, then put them back on the rack. They saved money, but I doubt that it was very meaningful.  My guess is that at some time in the future this practice will be a topic of discussion during a marriage counseling session.

Regardless of the business’ financial situation, it is always best to be frugal — but it’s important not to be short-sighted. Trying to hire employees for the lowest cost has never paid long-term dividends, and it solidifies the person’s reputation of being a tightwad.

You and your coworkers know how it feels to be the object of “saving money.” Bottom line, it does not instill a sense of being valued or appreciated. You asked about identifying the limit, and there it is — when the employees feel like a piece of equipment instead of a valued resource.

A more professional and profitable approach for your boss would be for him to continue to be frugal, but also to ask for the employees’ ideas on ways to reduce waste and save money. Even better, maybe he could be convinced to share some of the rewards by paying for good ideas, providing more competitive pay or with some type of a production and/or profit bonus. 

When it’s an appropriate time, tell your boss how his comments about money and his financial priorities make you and your coworkers feel. Remind him that you are all going through this current tough financial time together and that short-changing his employees is counter-productive. Be prepared with some suggestions on how you all can work together, cut costs and all share in the rewards.

If you have questions for Dear Boss, send them to:

Don Tyler, P.O. Box 67, Stockwell, IN47983or e-mail todon@dontyler.com.

Your letter will remain confidential, and may or may not get an individual reply.