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Keeping morale high during bankruptcy

Team reaction
Reorganization
Motivation
Internal Communication
Health / Stress / Burn-Out

21 March, 2018

Sushma discusses how she kept morale high, even as her company was facing bankruptcy and closure.

Problem

In 2012, after having worked at Kodak Gallery as a development manager for just a few months, I got news that Kodak had filed for bankruptcy. Because Kodak gallery acted independently, it was unclear what would happen to our company, so our company's management team was called into a meeting and we were told that while Kodak was planning on selling our business off, it was unclear who was going to buy it. Because of the level of uncertainty, many of our employee's began to show signs of low morale.

Actions taken

I spoke to my team, and openly let them know what I knew. I outlined that while I didn't know what was going to happen, there were some good companies who had shown interest in the company. We decided to focus on an interesting project, and because it was 2012 and very few companies had websites that were designed for mobile platforms, we decided to design a mobile-responsive website. We focused all of our energy on making the website mobile-friendly. This meant that even if the worst case scenario happened and people lost their jobs, they'd have picked up a new marketable skill that they could use in their CVs. We also instituted an agile process, which was new to the company. The team was excited, and morale improved. A few months later, in February, we heard Shutterfly was buying the company for its customers but didn't want the employees, so the company was going to have to shut down in September. The company got together to decide on what we could do for the remaining few months. A PM suggested introducing a new system, where people could use the mobile website to make customized photo magnets for their fridge. This project motivated everyone, as everybody, throughout the company, got to work on the project. It turned out to be one of the most successful products that the company had produced, and customers asked for the company not to close down, as they loved the magnets so much. Most employees stayed with the company until it shut down and then went on to their new challenges.

Lessons learned

While it's important not to give people false hope, by giving our teams something to work on and learn new skills from, Kodak Gallery was able to keep them motivated, even during a difficult transition period. While it was a difficult experience, by looking after the team members we were able to build camaraderie, and despite the company closing down, people who worked at Kodak Gallery are still close.


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