Your budget is decided and it’ll be a stretch to deliver all that’s expected of you with such limited resources. Then comes the ‘unfunded mandate’ – that project you don’t have money or staff for, but can’t say no to.
“Sure, we understand it’s not in your budget. But we need it,” your boss tells you. You smile, grit your teeth. Oh, in that case, I guess all my staff will work for free to get it done, you think. Not!
“You’re an exec. I know you can find a way to do it,” he continues. Now there’s a great pep talk.
“It’s not like we have a choice,” you hear next. “This comes from the top.” Ah, well then, no problem, since it’s mandated by someone up top who can create hours and money out of thin air!
Whether a business unit went off and bought a system that needs IT support, or the company decides to expand operations into a new region (with the consequent need for a network and email), unfunded mandates are common and they all add up to the same thing. People, whether your boss or your clients, expect something for nothing and blame you when you can’t deliver. The only thing you can do is to get them to decide which other projects to delay.
How not to respond
You can’t say no. No matter how unreasonable it seems, this unfunded mandate really is important to the executives at the top. Perhaps it’s a real mandate coming from government regulations or law. Maybe it’s imperative because of the business landscape. In any case, it’s not negotiable.