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Our boss said that developers should have fewer mistakes so the company would have money for displays, servers etc. An always mentioned example is a late firing of an underperforming colleague whose salary would have covered some of these expenses.

On the other hand it happened a few times that it took a few days to free up some disk space on our servers since we can't get any more disk. The cost of mandays was definitely higher than the cost of a new HDD.

Another example is that we use 14-15" notebooks for development and most of the developers get external displays after they spent one year at the company. The price of a 22-24" display is just a small fraction of a developers annual salary.

Devs say that they like the company because of other reasons (high quality code, interesting projects etc.) but this kind of issues not just simply time-consuming but also demotivate them. In the point of view of the developers it seems that the boss always can find an issue in the past which they could have been done better so it's pointless to work better to get for a second display/HDD/whatever.

How can I convince my boss to invest more into development environment? Is it possible to break this endless loop?

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This question came from our site for professional programmers interested in conceptual questions about software development.

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If your employer is skimping on hard drives, you have one of two situations: the drive they need to replace includes the server installation, which might mandate a regen of the operating system, at that point the cost of the drive is not the material cost - rebuilding the server is the issue. If you're having to spend time recovering space over a $99 hard drive, your company may be in a tight financial squeeze. The cost of hardware in that situation might be the least of your worries. –  Meredith Poor Jun 30 '13 at 21:15
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The arguments of your boss are merely manipulation. Whatever you do, there is always something that you could have done even better. That's technically true, but some companies still somehow manage to buy the necessary hardware for their developers. –  Viliam Búr Jul 2 '13 at 9:59
    
If your employer is making you use note books not even desktop replacement laptops runaway as fast as you can. –  Neuro Jul 19 '13 at 17:16

2 Answers 2

up vote 1 down vote accepted

It sounds like your challenge is to bring your boss around to your way of thinking. This in my experience is a very difficult thing to do. You have the benefit of being, in my opinion, right, but getting someone to see something your way is unfortunately not just a matter of arming yourself with the hard facts and then making your logical case. Humans are emotional and irrational and people tend to cling to their own ideas even when presented with facts that invalidate their incorrect views.

The book How to Win Friends and Influence People has a whole chapter on how to bring someone around to your way of thinking, and I recommend reading the entire book if you haven't already. The 3rd Alternative by Stephen Covey also presents some highly useful techniques for getting two disagreeing parties sufficiently onto the same page.

I think your options include:

  1. Try to "show your boss the light." This will probably not be easy, and it may take a serious time investment. I would recommend seeking first to understand why your boss thinks the way he does. His thinking to me is clearly irrational, but maybe he has some reason for the way he thinks, and maybe if you understand that reason, you can put yourself in a better position to try to persuade him. I suggest you invest the time to read those two books I mentioned because it would probably actually be more time-consuming to try to make your case without being armed with persuasion skills.
  2. Buy your own monitor. This may seem like just a workaround that doesn't address the real issue, and it might sound to you like you still "lose" in this scenario. I would argue that 1) your life will be slightly better overall if you buy the monitor yourself rather than refuse to budge on principle and go without, and 2) perhaps your boss will either notice an increase in productivity or feel bad, and reimburse you for the monitor. (This is probably unlikely, though. I bought my own monitor at work and no one noticed. Still, I'm glad I did.)
  3. Find a different job. I don't know if you're dissatisfied with your job overall, but I would be surprised if your boss is irrational on this one issue but absolutely nails it on everything else. If you want a better work situation, I've found that it's usually many times easier and more effective to find a different job than it is to try to change the one you have. Jobs are usually good or sucky depending on the people, and it's notoriously difficult to change people. It's a lot easier to just move yourself to different people.

I would recommend trying options 1, 2, and 3 in that order.

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never do 2 its not your job to buy equipment. –  Neuro Jul 19 '13 at 17:17
    
Thanks, Jason! I've found that finding a new job is a lot more easier and less stressful than convincing the boss... –  user95291 Jul 20 '13 at 16:34
    
@Neuro: any arguments? (I agree with you but I can't come up too many arguments. It would be great to see some.) –  user95291 Jul 20 '13 at 16:37
    
No DON'T buy your own stuff like that. If you remedy the situation in the dark - the boss will just keep doing what he always did. –  Petter Jul 21 '13 at 13:02
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Just came up with one argument of actually buying your own stuff - if you are counted on productivity rather than clock - you can pay off your tiny investment by leaving an hour earlier each day than before (all tasks still done) an go golfing. Not really practical at most workplaces but it can show Mr Boss that he could have that to his margin instead of you. –  Petter Jul 21 '13 at 13:09

Sounds as though your boss is motivated by achieving the maximum "bang for his buck".

While the merits of such an approach can themselves be debated, you'll likely not get very far.

Instead leverage it to your benefit.

For example, in 2003 Microsoft posted some research showing how multiple monitors improved productivity of typical knowledge workers by more than 10%, and developers in particular by up to 40%. A one-off investment of $100-200 to gain 10% more from a $60k/year resource sounds pretty compelling:

References

You can apply this argument in other areas too. For example, Joel Spolsky famously wrote:

I pointed out that given the price of hard drives these days, the cost of this space was significantly less than the cost of the toilet paper I used.

Investments into the developer environment needn't be motivated by a desire to "support" staff or to "be a good employer". With the right arguments, even a boss motivated purely by optimization of the bottom line can be persuaded.

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Thank you for the answer, Bevan! I've tried that but it looks that the management is not interested in increasing the developers' productivity. –  user95291 Jul 20 '13 at 16:39
    
Why? Are they stupid for real? Increased productivity means same work done with less employees if nothing else matters –  Petter Jul 21 '13 at 14:06
    
@Petter: They just don't believe in those saved minutes. As far as I see they think that devs will use the saved time for slacking a little bit more every day. –  user95291 Aug 3 '13 at 21:31
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So they are stupid then. How can they even decide on having one or ten devs? –  Petter Aug 7 '13 at 10:35

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