The Less Trap: 8 Tips on Combating Doing the Same with Less

by Naomi House, MLIS

The Less Trap:  8 Tips on Combating Doing the Same with Less

naomihouseLast May I was invited to speak at the National Press Club by LexisNexis.  My passion for volunteer work and reality of staffing cuts at my workplace at the time were colliding.  I spoke to the group about building versatility and leadership in your staff and yourself at work and in the volunteer sphere in general;  specifically I wanted to tackle the concept of “doing more with less” that many government agencies, corporations and libraries are making their staff do this.

Simply put while doing MORE with less is frustrating and sometimes impossible (for example the quality of the work suffers and things are forgotten) those doing MORE are often learning new skills and having additional job titles added on that will help them in the future.  I had found that many places were stagnating staff by making them do the SAME with less.  I call this The Less Trap, where staff cuts lead to fewer people doing the exact same tasks and having no new skills developed.  The staff are stagnated in their work and no growth opportunities exist.  Frustration on the job leads to staff retention issues as well.  Managers need to appreciate the staff they have instead of assuming the staff are lucky to have that job because the employed are more employable and there is no loyalty when staff are not appreciated.

Less Trap

Doing the Same With Less trap employees into a no-growth cycle.  What can be done?

4 things Employees can do

  1. Volunteer:  Having a satisfying work experience is often beyond our control.  Many of us who remain at jobs where layoffs have happened are stuck doing more work without the same opportunities for professional advancement.  Volunteering can help fill the satisfaction gap in our life for several reasons.  Volunteering helps fill our desire to learn new skills and it gives us the opportunity to network with others in our field, or in fields we may be interested in working in.
  2. Look for another job:  Seriously often the only real way to find happiness is leaving an unhappy work situation.  But most of us can’t just quit- we Need a job to pay bills so actively looking for a job in your spare time is often the best use of your time.
  3. Change your workflow:  If you have been saddled with additional duties after other positions were eliminated you might be approaching the new tasks as things to do on top of what you are already doing and not evaluating How to best organize your day.  The old workflow that you were used to may not be as efficient or effective so take some time to get re-organized and re-evaluate your daily tasks.  In the long run this will save you tons of time and cut down on stress.
  4. Just hit your marks:  Make sure your goals every day are realistic.  Knowing what your targets are for completion may not seem like a lofty goal but at work it is the most important one.  Focus first on hitting your marks before considering how to best exceed them.  Small steps can be more effective and lead to greater job satisfaction.

4 things Managers can do

  1. Don’t just delegate: You are the manager and when staff under you are let go your workload increases as well, so it can be very easy to just delegate for expediency and to keep the ship afloat.  Don’t.  Call a meeting.  Get staff involved.  As the people doing the tasks they may have valuable insights into how to organize the new workloads and even on de-duplicating efforts.
  2. Remember to show appreciation: Never, ever, under ANY circumstances tell your employees that they are  lucky to have a job still and be aware of showing this attitude, too.  The employed are more employable and if you do not take care to show appreciation there is no reasons for any employee to show you loyalty.  Also an employee is more than someone trained in a task-set, the knowledge they build on the job is so much more valuable than you might realize.  Take time to really show that your employees are valued.  Staff retention is vital!
  3. Evaluate what you offer patrons:  Whether you run a department or entire company it is critical to evaluate right away what it is that you offer patrons.  This is where metrics and benchmarking are critical because they will show you where necessary cuts can be made as well as how others are doing the same tasks with more efficiency.  With fewer staff it may be a good idea to cut out the less necessary offerings and focus on doing a better job with the more popular ones.
  4. Get creative:  The number one issue I have with doing the SAME with less is that it stagnates your employees.  You do not want to over-burden them with MORE, at the same time you want them to be happy and feel loyal and engaged in their work.  So get creative with small things.  Let them be creative in ways that will not affect services like holding a staff contest for designing new inter-office labels. Small things.  Or build up moral by giving them some new perks (my idea of a panda-cam dedicated computer screen in the workplace has never caught on).  Getting creative can make all the difference.


Both employees and managers need to be in the discussions whenever staff cuts are made, if the transition is to be successful.  Getting everyone on board, showing appreciation, planning better, and volunteer work are a few solutions that can make all the difference in the work-life of both employees and managers.

Naomi House

Naomi House, MLIS, is the founder and publisher of the popular webzine and jobs list (formerly I Need a Library Job) and former CMO (Chief Marketing Officer) of, a crowdfunding platform focused on African patrimony, heritage and cultural projects. INALJ was founded in October 2010 with the assistance of her fellow Rutgers classmate, Elizabeth Leonard. Its social media presence has grown to include Facebook (retired in 2016), Twitter and a LinkedIn group, in addition to the interviews, articles and jobs found on INALJ. INALJ has had over 21 Million page hits and helped many, many thousands of librarians find employment! Through grassroots marketing, word of mouth and a real focus on exploring unconventional resources for job leads, INALJ grew from a subscription base of 20 friends to a website with over 500,000 visits in one month. Naomi believes that well-sourced quantity is quality in this narrow job market and INALJ reflects this with many new jobs published daily. She has also written for the 2011, 2012 and 2013 LexisNexis Government Info Pro and many other publications in the past decade. She presents whenever she can, including serving on three panels at the American Library Association's Annual Conference in Las Vegas; as breakout presenter at OCLC EMEA in Cape Town, South Africa; as a keynote speaker at the Virginia Library Association annual meeting; at the National Press Club in Washington DC; McGill University in Montreal, Canada; the University of the Emirates, Dubai, MLIS program and the University of Hawaii at Manoa. Naomi was a Reference, Marketing and Acquisitions Librarian for a contractor at a federal library outside Washington, DC, and has been living and working in Budapest, Hungary and Western New York State. She spent years running her husband’s moving labor website, fixed and sold old houses and assisted her husband cooking delicious Pakistani food. She is preparing to re-enter the workforce and is job hunting. Her husband is now the co-editor of INALJ, a true support!  She has heard of spare time but hasn’t encountered it lately. She pronounces INALJ as eye-na-elle-jay.