As a team leader, you’re responsible for securing the resources needed to get the work done. Whether it’s asking for budget, headcount or both, your success in getting new resources is key to your team’s performance and to avoiding burnout.

But sometimes when you ask for resources, the answer you get from your boss is “no”.

Not only is it frustrating to be turned down for something essential to your team’s success, it’s also embarrassing to have to admit to your overworked team members that you failed to deliver on what they need.

When you feel like you’re doing everything “right” but still not get the resources you need, it’s likely you’re making one of these common mistakes.

Mistake 1: Your ask for resources is seen as unreasonable

When I arrived in London to build a new client coverage effort, I knew I needed a 15-person team. So that’s what I asked for. But since the business was unproven, my boss said no. He also revealed that with the budget numbers already set, there wasn’t enough wiggle room to fund my whole team this year.

Instead, we agreed a phased hiring program with the understanding that I would be back for the additional headcount as we produced results.

When you and your boss have a difference of opinion, you may need to revisit the context and modify your ask.

Mistake 2: You haven’t made a compelling case for additional resources

Recognize that what you think is a “no brainer” might not appear that way to your boss. So step back and look at your ask for resources from your boss’s point of view.

What would make the case compelling to her? How do you need to state the case in a way that she’ll agree?

For example, one of my team members made the case for hiring based on how overworked her team was. But she also had the reputation of being a perfectionist who used up a lot of people hours on unnecessary analysis.

If she had made the case based on the additional revenue a new team member could help generate, I would have been more sympathetic.

So check that you’re making the case based on what’s in it for your boss and the broader organization.

Mistake 3: You’ve made a compelling case but there are higher priorities

When your boss has other competing goals they‘re putting first, it’s a question of timing. This is when you want to check that your ask for resources is not an outright “no”, but rather a “not now” or “not yet”. While still frustrating, you will have gotten some great information on what matters most in your unit.

Think about whether you can reframe your needs to align with those other priorities for the group. And find out when it makes sense to bring up your ask again.

Mistake 4: You’re asking for resources from the wrong person

This is the most interesting one because you have to look closely for the signs that this is the case. Most bosses won’t readily admit that they lack authority over important resource allocation decisions like budgets and headcount.

They might even agree with your ask, but when they push the request up the chain of command, they get turned down. Which means you get turned down.

In the next post, I’ll share the signs to look for and what to do if you think you may be negotiating with the wrong person.

If your request for resources has been turned down, step back and assess why

Which explanation rings true for why you’re getting a “no” when you ask for resources?

  • Your ask is seen as unreasonable
  • You haven’t made a compelling case
  • There are other priorities
  • You’re negotiating with the wrong person

The first step to getting to “yes” when you ask for resources is to understand why you’re getting a “no”. Then you can figure out the right next steps to getting the resources you need.