Recession calls up sacrifice

A year into a global recession, businesses across the economic spectrum are trying to avoid layoffs -- or prevent more -- by down-shifting operations. They are reducing hours, freezing wages and suspending matching 401(k) programs.

They're also asking employees to make other, seemingly smaller, sacrifices for the collective good: downsizing client dinners to business lunches, replacing catered meetings with brownbag teleconferences, cleaning offices less often.

Grateful to have a steady job, many employees are embracing conditions that they might have sneered at only a year ago.

"It's not that horrible," said Krystal Daniels, 24, a cashier at Rush Hour Karting in Garner, whose duties now include cleaning the public bathrooms at night. "It's better than shutting down."

Employees, especially those who have survived a layoff or two, will surprise themselves by how much they are willing to put up with, said Ben Rosen, a management professor at UNC Chapel Hill's Kenan-Flagler Business School. "We're at such a difficult employment time that people don't have the options they had even three months ago, so the tolerance for sacrifice is far greater," Rosen said.

But such policies can hurt morale, Rosen said, particularly if managers and executives don't lead by example and give up a few perks.

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