I'm a permanent software developer in the UK. I started a new job at a startup recently, and requested a software tool subscription that makes me more productive, pays for itself, and makes me a happier worker. They shut down the request without even discussing it. Their response was "If we do that, then we'll have to buy extra software for everyone [approx 6 people], and it'll be too expensive". (This is part of a larger pattern by the way: they won't buy second monitors for anyone either.)

I find this attitude worrying. It's like they don't understand what the word "productivity" means in "productivity tool".

I didn't try to continue the discussion at that point, but I may go back and ask them about it again, particularly as I don't want to work in my trade using the alternative substandard tool; a different employer who will buy the tool would be preferable. Or as a contractor I could just buy myself the tool.

What's a good strategy for talking to them about this again? I've done the maths and I can see that this tool pays for itself if it saves me at minimum 1 minute 50 seconds of time a day, which I'm very certain it does. (Another way of looking at it: the annual software subscription costs the same as my salary for one day of my work.)

How can I present my case? I appreciate that there's no 'money saved' value that will appear anywhere to comfort financial controllers; they just see the cost of the software license.

Also, if they refuse to discuss this further, am I being hasty in regarding this a red flag for them as a tech employer?

  • You would buy it for yourself if you were a contractor, but you won't buy it for yourself as an employee? Why? Taxes? Company policy about business use of personal equipment? Matter of principle that the company should pay? – Kent A. Jan 15 '17 at 23:59
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    Matter of principle. It's not purely about some preference of mine, it's a tool that makes me more effective and better value for the company, cost of tool included. Why should I pay for that out of my own pocket? – J Bramble Jan 16 '17 at 0:11
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    I think the main issue here is that you don't really have a convincing case, when you say that it "pays for itself." I don't know your company's finances, but they'll ask themselves "ok.. that's nice. If it's so awesome then go ahead and buy it yourself. Then work super-hard and be very effective, and you'll get a raise." The company has to set wide policies, and it seems that your company might be a bit limited in the finances. – Caffeinated Jan 16 '17 at 0:11
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    @Adel They've not even asked for 'a case', convincing or otherwise. They've just said "It costs money, therefore no." I can provide evidence if they ask for it, or in the very least show very concretely how it saves time. – J Bramble Jan 16 '17 at 0:16
  • @JBramble - First of all, I would advise carefully drafting up this evidence in clean organized way. A petition might work too. Show them a nice paper about the cost / value. GL – Caffeinated Jan 16 '17 at 0:18

If it is a good investment of money, and the investment isn't made, not even discussed, there are three possibilities: Either the company has no spare cash, or the person whose budget would pay has no spare cash in their budget, or the person whose budget would pay can't be bothered to do the work that is involved with buying the tool.

In the first two cases there's not much you can do. In the last case, you can try asking for the investment until the person in question thinks it's more work rejecting your requests than fulfilling your requests. It also helps to prepare things so the amount of work for that person is minimised.

The person responsible might also follow a simple strategy: If you ask for something, and you are told "no", and you give up, then obviously it wasn't really needed. Asking again means you need it.


Argue that it pays for itself. Try to bring some evidence to the discussion.

If they don't believe that it pays for itself, or if the people you are supposed to approach have to somehow get the same argument up multiple levels of heirarchy before anything is done, then the argument won't work and you're stuck.

Sadly, convincing management to spend money to save money is very difficult, especially if their next performance review is going to focus on how much money they have saved during a fixed period of time.

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