ALC English Journal Article July 2014

Not Enough Budget!

My company is decreasing our department’s budget and I can’t afford the tools needed to do my job properly. I’ve asked for more budget, but the answer is always “No! Any advice?  


This is a serious situation both for you and for your company! Having the materials and equipment necessary for your work is essential to being an “engaged employee”. What is employee engagement? It means that workers have an emotional commitment to their company’s purpose and goals. It’s beyond people being happy at work, and far beyond simply working for a paycheck.

Everyone Asks for “More”! Many people don’t even bother to ask for what they need because they assume that their requests will be denied. Managers hear appeals for “more” all the time – more time, more money, more people. As a result many managers automatically deny such requests initially.

Don’t stop at “No”! Here are the five levels of escalation that I’ve personally used successfully in my work:

  1. Ask again! Clearly explain to your boss how not having the tools is negatively impacting your team’s work, and how having the tools will help you. Show your boss how you will be able to better support their professional success. Connect your ability to do your job properly to the goals of your company. This demonstrates that you are not just a typical employee asking for “more”, and have seriously thought about the expense.
  2. Justify the expense. Calculate a simple “ROI” (Return On Investment) to support your request. How much will the tools cost? That’s the “Investment” part.  The “Return” is the financial benefit of having the right tools. Consider how much wasted time and money will be avoided in the next year. Estimate how many more happy customers you could create and what risks you might avoid by this investment. If this all seems too daunting, seek help from someone in your finance and accounting department.
  3. Pay for the tools yourself! If you really can’t do your job properly without them, buying these tools yourself will guarantee that you perform well. Can’t afford them? Then you might want to consider the extreme approach in level four below.
  4. Go straight to the top! Although risky, if the lack of proper tools poses a threat to your business, it’s your duty to assure that your most senior executives have an opportunity to deny your request.
  5. Quit! Do you really want to work someplace where you will be doomed to fail? Even in Japan, a mid-career transition is an option. And the predicted labor shortage will mean employers will increasingly have to compete for top talent. Protect your reputation by finding a company that will give you a fair chance to do excellent work.

Using these approaches I’ve been able to hire new employees during a hiring freeze and replace a poor quality part in a manufactured product with a better quality part that was five times more expensive.

An intelligent company doesn’t let their official budget prevent them from doing what is in their company’s best interest. (I recently heard of a manager getting approval for $500M for an opportunistic acquisition that was not in his budget!) While you might be told there’s no budget, I can assure you that – if it’s important – there is ALWAYS money!

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