What is the word (if there even is one) to describe an employer hiring/employing fewer people than he/she should?

For example, a cafe wanted to save money and chose to only hire one waiter even though it needed at least three during busy times. The term that came to my mind was 'underhire' or 'underemployed', but after consulting dictionary neither of them works.

So is there an adjective/verb can I can use to describe this kind of situation?

Many thanks

  • 2
    "Skeleton crew" is an interesting idiom as well.
    – Daniel
    Commented Dec 12, 2016 at 15:23
  • 1
    As an addendum, you can do either short-staffed or understaffed, but be sure to add "deliberately" to it vel sim. or else it will appear accidental. Example: "The restaurant was deliberately under/shot-staffed to cut costs, leading to high customer dissatisfaction."
    – user32753
    Commented Dec 12, 2016 at 18:22
  • I would use "shorthire", based on the word "shortchange". I thought it was a real word, but I can't find it in a dictionary. Commented Dec 13, 2016 at 1:43
  • The phrase "chronically understaffed" comes to mind, meaning that understaffed is the usual status of the business or department.
    – jpaugh
    Commented Dec 13, 2016 at 22:37

2 Answers 2


Understaffed may be the word that you are looking for:

Understaffed (adjective)

  • If a shop, business, or organization is understaffed, it does not have enough employees:
  • The hospital was desperately understaffed.

Cambridge Dictionary

  • 14
    Short-handed is another, more generic idiom. While understaffed is appropriate for any organization with a staff (a formal group of employees), short-handed can be applied to any group of people engaged in an activity where they could really use more "hands".
    – Andrew
    Commented Dec 11, 2016 at 17:51
  • 3
    "Understaffing" is the present participle or gerund form.
    – Jasper
    Commented Dec 11, 2016 at 19:23
  • 2
    @Andrew The term short-handed is about there not being enough people for a certain task. The term under-staffing is about a company not hiring enough people (for whatever reason). The latter was what was asked for. (Oh, and no, I'm not the same guy as the previous comment.)
    – Jasper
    Commented Dec 12, 2016 at 13:58
  • @Jasper does this notify both of you?
    – Cruncher
    Commented Dec 12, 2016 at 15:32
  • @Cruncher It does notify me.
    – Jasper
    Commented Dec 12, 2016 at 15:32

Short-Staffed would be appropriate

Short-staffed (adjective)

  • not having the usual or necessary number of workers

Cambridge English Business Dictionary

  • 12
    Short-staffing would describe the [deliberate] practice perfectly.
    – Mick
    Commented Dec 11, 2016 at 19:46
  • @Mick I disagree. Having been a waiter, we always used short-staffed when someone called out sick or there was some other temporary reason we didn't have enough people, not for management decision to intentionally not hire enough people.
    – Kevin
    Commented Dec 12, 2016 at 19:36
  • @Kevin: Yes, being short-staffed doesn't imply anything about it being intentional (which is unusual). I agree with Mick, though, that short-staffing would describe the practice of creating that situation for your employees. Something that fortunately most places don't do. Commented Dec 12, 2016 at 20:12
  • short-staffing denotes the hiring, strongly insinuating that it is intentional; short-staffed is the situation, intentional or not.
    – Kaz
    Commented Dec 13, 2016 at 2:35

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