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There's No Money for That

There’s No Money for That

There's No Money for That

You have heard this before…”There’s no money for that.”  You ask your boss for a raise, or a new piece of equipment such as a computer or other new technology, or to attend a training event or to hire another team member, or for a working air conditioning system, or a first aid kit, or for a water fountain with water that is fit for human consumption, and the response is “there’s no money for that.”  

Your bureaucratic manager usually doesn’t even look up from the perch where he is seated when giving the monotone response. He will look up after a few seconds hoping to see that you have departed in one form or another. I served in US Navy Special Operations for 26 years, and we were often told “there’s no money for that.” Wait, what? The Department of Defense has a trillion-dollar budget and there’s no money for that? From my perspective, there’s plenty of money for that. In most organizations, there is money for that if you can justify the expense.

2 Components 

Your company might be performing less than optimal if all team members’ ideas and contributions are not given due consideration, or if their voices are not heard through several channels. There are two components to “there’s no money for that.” 

The first component is the perspective of the person denying the request. In an attempt to get you to go away quietly, “there’s no money for that” is the go-to statement. Managers who are settled into their titles and positions know that 50% of those requesting funding will drop the request immediately upon being told: “there’s no money for that.” It’s the other 50% of requestors that middle managers fear, for they will not go away quietly. They will try to justify the expense. They will say silly things like “our drinking water has failed health standards testing for three years in a row.”  

This brings us to the second component of ‘there’s no money for that – the requestor. If you are requesting funding for something that is outside of the pre-established budget, you will be told that there is no money for that until you have presented the benefits to the company.

The cost of this bureaucratic red tape (I’ve seen red tape dispensers and they can be more effective than a bazooka) is reduced input (creative thinking) from your customer-facing employees. The most recent Gallup and Glassdoor surveys indicate that employees want to make meaningful contributions to the mission of their organization. Tell them “there’s no money for that” enough times and they will likely move on to another organization. This creates turnover costs, especially at the management level and higher. It also throws off the work-life balance as workers want to be proud of who they work for. Saying “there’s no money for that” without due consideration can create tension that may go home with a valuable member of the team. It has been my experience that not every idea brought forth by the troops is good or executable, but the best ideas for product or service improvement often come from our front-line customer-facing teammates, and now and then one of those ideas may cost a lot or a little, and result in major improvements on three fronts. 

3 Questions

In my business,  I ask three questions when my teammates ask for funds:

  1. Will it enhance the employee experience? 
  2. Will it enhance the customer experience? 
  3. Will it increase the bottom line? 

If the answer is yes to all three questions, then we most definitely have money for that. If the answer is yes to one of the three questions, we might have money for that after a more thorough review of the situation. I then add a fourth question- How much money do we have for that?

Most inconsequential managers do not want you to rock the boat, or otherwise create more work for them. But, if you can do all the research, all the work necessary to capture their attention, there will likely be money for that. Even if your requested expense gets in a queue for execution in the near future, or maybe in next year’s budget, alas, there is money for that. 

I have learned many lessons over my 26-year military career and in the 11 years that I have been in the private sector. One of those lessons is that good leaders never stop learning. Lifelong leaders are lifelong learners. I suspect that you are a lifelong learner since you are reading this treatise. Whether you are honing your leadership edge or enabling professional development for those under your charge, working with a variety of coaches is critical for personal/professional growth, team growth, and the growth of ROI. My management team has been in place now for 8 years. We certainly went through learning curves along the way, but because we focus on sound principles of leadership, we are thriving. You too can thrive by regularly attending leadership development events or retaining coaches with business experience and success. With so many to choose from, it should not be hard to find someone you will be very comfortable working with. The relationship is usually very rewarding in ways that you were not expecting, as long as there is money for that.


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