Have You Ever Turned Down A Raise?

Before y’all conclude I’ve lost my marbles, allow me to explain:

At my last evaluation I agreed to certain educational assignments that were to be completed by 12.31.2003. My last eval was in April last year which meant I had 8 months to get that stuff done, but I only managed to complete one of the three agreed-upon assignments. (This was something I signed my name to, BTW).

Okay. In all fairness to myself, we had a really busy year patient-wise, and being the only therapist on a 12 hour night shift really had me humpin’ to the point where there wasn’t much “down-time” available to me to complete those things, but

It bothers me that I made a promise which I didn’t keep. It bothers me a lot.

Back in the 80’s I worked as an assistant manager at a Sherwin-Williams store in Panama City Florida and we had the following motto hanging on our office wall:

We will do what we say we will do.
We won’t commit to something we can’t do.
Once we commit to it, we will do it.

I always thought that was a pretty good way to conduct one’s life as well as one’s business, and that is why it bothers me that I didn’t honor my commitment to my boss.

She’s very cool, and has told me time and time again that she knows we were busy this past year and that she isn’t holding this against me. Again, to be fair, I consider myself a very good therapist and team player, and I never leave at 7 am if I know the day shift person is coming into a “mess”. Still, I broke a promise., and I plan to turn down the merit raise when it’s offered. (Last year I got more than anyone in the department: 3%. The rest got 2.) I know it’s not a great deal of money, but it’s the principle. I am, in essence, kicking my own ass to do better.

So my question stands. Have you (for whatever reason) ever done this? How was it received?



I tried to turn one down when the company I worked for was in a bit of a financial tight spot; I tried to choose a cheaper company car too, but I was overruled.

Be careful though, that it doesn’t make you look too grovelly.

I’ve sorta kinda done this twice-- more like I’ve turned down opportunities.

Even though it meant I’d be making a hundred dollars a day instead of the usual eighty, I didn’t think it was right to take a long-term subbing position I’d been offered. If a permanent teaching job came up (which it did), I would take it, and that would mean they’d be searching for another sub they could trust to do a good job on a long term assignment. It felt good to do the right thing and the teacher and principal of that school still tell everyone how great I was.

The second time I turned down a raise was just my perverseness about chasing extra cash. The local university’s education department is so horrendous that dealing with them to get my master’s isn’t worth the aggravation, no matter if it’d mean more money. This one has come back to bite me, though. Now I want my master’s as part of my professional growth/continuing education thing and I’ve got to take three classes before the end of the year. I are a big dummy on this one.

Quasi-- if turning down the raise will allow you to keed your self-respect, etc. then do it. Just don’t kick yourself too hard, it sounds as though you had pretty good reasons and it’s not as though you didn’t deserve the raise based on your performance at work. It was just the education thing that you fumbled.

I see this as you putting yourself down too much, Quasi, sorry. I respect your personal ethics, I’m much that way myself. If I promise to do something, I rip myself to pieces if it isn’t done as promised.

If your place of work has performance raises, and they feel you have earned that raise by working your butt off over the past year, why turn it down? It’s recognition of the great work you do. If you can do those courses this year, to make up for missing them, to make good on your promise, that would be the way to go.

But look – you’re a good friend of mine for just being the way you are. If you still want to turn down that raise, that’s your business and is an honourable thing, Quasi. Just please don’t beat yourself up over stuff, okay?

Wow Quasi, how much better the world would be if everyone thought like you. :slight_smile:

Here’s my story. I came back to work for a company for a second time. I made a deal with the boss, I took a cut in pay when I came back. The reason for the cut in pay was that I really liked working at this place, and I knew they weren’t doing all that well, so it was a goodwill gesture on my part.

After several months, the boss said he was going to increase my pay substantially, but I had to agree to work the long hours the other “top” guys were working. These other guys were 100 percent devoted to this company, they spent nearly every waking hour of their lives there. That kind of situation really isn’t my cup of tea. So I turned down the raise and added responsibility. I think that might have been the death knell for my career at this company, but I was happy with my decision, I don’t want to “live” at my job. I left the company a few months later.

Last year I relieved in my boss’ position while he was on holidays. Due to a lot of different circumstances I was only able to keep up with my own duties and did none of the additional duties of my boss. When he returned he asked for the paperwork so I could be paid an allowance for my time relieving him. It didn’t seem right to me because he had come back to all his undone work. He thought I wsa crazy for not putting it in - his attitude was that whatever was going on I was responsible and should be paid for assuming the responsibility. However I didn’t make the claim.

I routinely fail to complete projects on my work plans - our group sees little point in work plans that are easily achieved. It’s all a question of priorities. If I was offered a bonus for the good things that I did achieve I would certainly accept it. My boss is quite capable of evaluating my performance and knows what projects remain undone. I think knocking back a bonus under those circumstances belittles your day to day duties - surely the main purpose of your job is to perform them to the best of your abilities.

Hmmm. I’ve turned down promotions before that would have come with raises, does that count?

I’ve offered twice to take a pay cut if it would help getting another body in our office (that never seems to work). The spirit of the offer seems lost on my boss and co-workers, who are of the “grab everything you can get and whine for more” mindset. It’s incomprehnsible to them.

I know you didn’t ask for comments on your situation, Quasi, but do you often make commitments you can’t keep? Were these education assignments required for you to keep your job? Was there truly no time to complete them all, or did you take it easy when you could have been doing them? Depending on your answers, I might have done the same thing myself. Your will to achieve is kind of like a muscle in your body; push it too hard and it will snap or break, push it just right and it will grow and be more useful to you.

Turned down a 12% raise once, a possible transfer to another department involving that amount. I elected to stay where I was.

A few months later, I had my review. My boss said he was so glad to keep me, but so sorry he couldn’t give me a 12% raise. Instead, he gave me a 13% raise.

I left the company shortly thereafter, but that remains the happiest and best raise I ever got. Money isn’t everything.

… to its lowest common denominator: I made a promise to someone and I didn’t keep it. Leave the job out of it and put it into a real-life situation. It’s really the same thing, isn’t it?

It’s okay though. I’ll make it even without the raise. What makes up for it is the fact that I have taken good care of my patients, and that will be enough.

Sometimes it really isn’t about the money. Thanks for that reminder! :smiley:



  1. No. I do not as a rule make commitments I cannot honor. Hence my frustration.

  2. Yes and No. These were assigments designed to help me do my job better and even though I employed/initiated them, I did not do the written paperwork associated with proof that I had learned something new.

  3. Yes and No. Some nights I was so exhausted from the patient load, that when I had an “easy” night I concentrated on giving my patients more than a “lick and a promise”, and actually spent time with them and taught them proper breatthing techniques and how to use their in-home respiratory meds.

Thanks for that last sentence in your post, Horseflesh! I will remember it.



Was this really a promise or a commitment, Quasi, or more in the nature of a goal for the coming year? Papa Tiger’s annual personnel evaluations require him to state rather specific goals for the upcoming year, some of which may be tied to expanding education rather than day-to-day job performance, and the expectation is that while it’s good if one can achieve them, the day-to-day job performance is what merit raises are based on.

Setting goals that turn out not to be immediately achievable is not a failure, especially if you still have the goal but circumstances (such as very long work hours and a heavy workload) just didn’t permit you to be Superman this past year. Sometimes life happens in spite of the best of us.

My suggestion? Express your desire to not accept the raise to your boss once or twice, but if it’s still offered even after you’ve expressed your feelings that you didn’t meet your expectations, allow your boss the pleasure of overruling you and deciding what about your performance she believes is worthy of financial recognition. It sounds like you’ve been a great employee whose first goal has been superior patient care, and that in and of itself is generally worth reward. Your educational goal, while important to you, may not be as important to her.

An alternative to not accepting the bonus is to accept it and acknowledge what it stands for but if you aren’t happy benefiting then give it to a good cause. Every year I include some money in my Christmas budget for giving away and have come up with some great ways to do it - I get my money’s worth. I do exciting things like giving buskers $20 rather than 20 cents. I give presents to gift exchanges and always choose a baby gift and wrap it with cash in it - every Christmas morning I can think of someone who is broke opening their child’s present and finding money.

I wasn’t bagging on you Quasi. I’m trying to learn myself that absolutes aren’t always the best thing to stick to in life. You’re allowed to be your harshest critic, but accept praise when it’s given and deserved. If your boss was giving you the raise based on job performance, rather than some goals that you set for yourself, I’d say that you should take it and thank her. Nobody likes to have a compliment turned down, probably including your boss.

If these goals aren’t unrealistic, keep them in place. Be flexible about the time needed to complete them. When you set your goals with deadlines, you should have a written plan that spells out exactly how you will accomplish them and leave flexibility in there to account for situations that may hinder you.

I wish you the best of luck in your job this year, Quasi. It sounds as if you’re a great caregiver.

I work in HR, and while every company is different, I’m going to point out a general principle of why you should probably take the raise. From the company’s perspective, they should be striving to compensate employees fairly relative to the market and each other. Any deviation from that is hard to justify–it’s about the market and employees’ relative qualifications/performance. In general HR wants to be “in control” of compensation – WE decide what we should pay you. (I know, HR doesn’t have the best reputation in the world …)

As a productive suggestion, I’d say take the raise and splurge on whatever time saving luxury will allow you to make sure you complete your education commitment this year. Hire a housecleaner, have healthy meals delivered, upgrade your computer so you can do e-learning at home, whatever it takes. That seems like a true win-win for you and the employer.

By the way, your reason to not accept a raise is interesting. The one most commonly heard is that it will disqualify someone from a government benefit.

I didn’t refuse the raise just tried to defer it for 6 months. My employer refused, said I earned it and had should take it.

At the risk of sounding like a prick…

I am in the midst of a divorce, (my soon to be ex decided she needed a boyfriend) and my raise is about 10k per year. I wanted to defer it so that child support would not be based on higher wage. I have every intention of providing well for my 4 kids, just don’t want to give the money to her, would rather pay for stuff directly.

[QUOTE=Harriet the Spry]
In general HR wants to be “in control” of compensation – WE decide what we should pay you. (I know, HR doesn’t have the best reputation in the world …)


Then, dear Harriet, HR needs to “get a life”, so to speak. (Not you personally of course, but in general).

There is a lot of history behind me and my little hospital here in Dallas, Georgia and the loyalty runs very deep. Dallas is a “Mayberry” kind of town where if I go to the Supermarket, it isn’t unusual to see one of my patients who will speak to me and thank me for taking care of them.

This matters to me, and it is very important that I keep abreast of changes in my field. I did not do this, and I will not accept a pay raise if offered. If this throws a “monkey wrench” into the HR “works”, well, that’s something they will have to deal with, right?



My evaluation happened a couple of days ago.

My boss told me she “put me in” for more than the standard three per cent, because not only did I meet expectations, I also exceeded in some areas.I told her of my plans to turn down the raise, and she said, “Stop, Bill. Let me finish.”

So I stopped and listened as I was told what a valuable employee I was and how much she depended on me, and all I kept saying was “Yeah-but, Yeah-but!” and she wasn’t having any of it.

So now I gotta wonder some stuff: Are the rest of my colleagues such screw-ups that it makes me shine, or am I really worth something?

Y’all are my friends, and I wouldn’t blow any smoke up your collective asses, but what’s up here?

Personally (and who better to judge that than me?), I decided my performance sucked, and in order for me to do better, I needed a kick in the ass! By not getting a raise.

Wasn’t there a baseball player who turned down his bonus because he didn’t feel like he deserved it? Well that’s my dumb ass, Dude! I just don’t need Larry King to interview me!

I need the money! (Fixin’ to start RN school)

I just don’t feel like I deserve it.

Sue my German ass.


I once offered to return a bonus because I didn’t think I had earned it.

I once took a paycut because the company needed a programmer (me) and couldn’t continue to pay my salary and would fold otherwise. I took stock options in place. Unfortunately, the company folded anyway…


[QUOTE=Harriet the Spry]
In general HR wants to be “in control” of compensation – WE decide what we should pay you. (I know, HR doesn’t have the best reputation in the world …)

Well, I think you’re nuts (is it OK to say that to a therapist?).:wink: You were given a raise because they think you deserve it. Unless your raise was based solely on the paperwork you didn’t complete, you not only earned it, but you are being appreciated for your efforts.

Now my HUSBAND, on the other hand, had a very valid reason for turning down a raise. After nearly 20 years of employment, his boss gave him one of those slap-in-the-face, you’re-at-the-top-of-our-scale, 1% raises. He refused to sign off on it and told them they needed it more than he did. He’s blue collar and has been carrying the department for years. Anyway, they all freaked out and corporate got called in. Meetings were scheduled, heart-to-hearts were had, and he ended up getting a much better raise out of it. It was beeeeautiful.

But back to you. Take the raise. Be proud that they think so much of you. You earned it, regardless of whether or not you fell short of some of your goals. Missing one thing doesn’t throw the rest of your efforts into the crapper.