I was reading an article and came across this gem of a story. See? It can be done. I think this is a great example they used of leadership by taking a courageous stand, and one which opposes what many organizations opt into doing – cutting the bottom first.
Early in 2009, with Beth Israel Deaconess facing a projected $20 million annual loss after several years of profitability, Paul Levy held an employee meeting to discuss layoffs. He expressed concern about how cutbacks would affect low-wage employees, such as housekeepers, and somewhat cautiously floated what seemed likely to be an unpopular idea: protecting some of those low-paying jobs by reducing the salary and benefits of higher-paid employees—including many sitting in the auditorium. To his surprise, the room erupted in applause.
His candid request for help led to countless suggestions for cost savings, including an offer by the 13 medical department heads to save 10 jobs through personal donations totaling $350,000. These efforts ultimately reduced the number of planned layoffs by 75%.*
*Leadership in a (Permanent) Crisis: Harvard business review • july–august 2009 page 6