I have worked for a few companies now, and I have noticed a trend, where oftentimes my boss (or above) will want to assign me more work compared to other co-workers on our team or department.

This usually occurs because of turnover or growth. Because these events are pretty cyclical, more often than not, the additional workload ends up being effectively permanent. My bosses like to say that this is because I am the most capable, or they are confident in my abilities, as to the reason why I get selected. The problem is that oftentimes, I am asked to do 50-100% more work compared to normal.

I have tried to leverage this for a promotion, but I've gotten shot down. Their reasoning is usually to the effect of: "You're not doing higher level work", "That's not what our needs are at this time", or "We don't have the budget for that". Sometimes, they will string me along for awhile too before using one of these excuses.

In short, I am somewhat bitter about constantly being used as a workhorse, and I want to put an end to it. (Honestly, the only way I've been able to move up in my career is by finding a new job externally.) In short, how can I tell my boss that I will not do any more work without being paid extra (even for a short period) and not be fired or punished for it? I'm just tired of being taken advantage of. If I'm not getting anything out of it (at least historically), I'd rather just do the bare minimum needed of my paycheck.

  • 4
    “I quit?” would be the equivalent.
    – mxyzplk
    Feb 4, 2022 at 0:54
  • 1
    In short, how can I tell my boss that I will not do any more work without being paid extra (even for a short period) and not be fired or punished for it? - You likely can't. You're not in a position of power. You can stop doing the extra work... and probably be terminated as a result, or you can find another job. Those are realistically the only two avenues for you.
    – joeqwerty
    Feb 4, 2022 at 1:19
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    Are you working more hours, or are you getting 50-100% more work done in a regular work week? Are your colleagues working a full week. Feb 4, 2022 at 2:12
  • Does this answer your question? How should I properly approach my boss if I'm feeling underpaid?
    – gnat
    Feb 4, 2022 at 7:56
  • I'm bitter too-that you don't quit. Did you have some agreement with them that if you did 50% more work that you would get 50% more pay? My reply to them would be a question ... do you mean more work per hour or more in total? They will likely ask you what you mean and you can in return ask ... "I don't know how to clarify. I'm asking what your expectation is." And then you shut up ... do not give in. Feb 5, 2022 at 1:23

3 Answers 3


They keep asking you to do more work because you keep getting it done.

YOU COMPLETING THE WORK is a signal that you have capacity to do it, and thus they might be able to get away with slightly more.

Effectively, you need to FAIL to get them to stop. Establish a boundary where if you are assigned work, it's unable to be completed after that threshold without other things being impacted.

Let them know when they give it to you that you will try.... and then just let it fail the deadline. Let it be late.

If they question you, just say you tried and it took longer than expected.

Once this happens, they will understand your capacity and stop increasing it.

A managers job is quite literally to manipulate you, a human, much like a software developer manipulates lines of code.

They will almost always try to keep piling things on to over-achievers, knowing that they'll keep taking it without confrontation.

If you think about it, if you were in their shoes.... Wouldn't you want to see if you could pressure an employee into 10-20% more work for free? You're limited on headcount / budget, so you know you can't get another person... maybe have Steve do it. Tell him he's real important to the company.... Words are free. Managers have no budget on nice-eties and things they may say to you when trying to praise you up into doing this.

More nefarious managers may even dangle a pay raise or promotion 3-6 months out into the future, which is also FREE - when the time comes for it, magically there will be an HR issue, hiring / raise freeze, etc. The words you hear from your manager in the context of convincing you to work more are almost 90% of the time BS.

Fail enough, and they will understand you are at your capacity and need additional help. As long as you are putting in a reasonable amount of effort, there's no chance this backfires on you. (Literally... I've seen companies struggle hard to fire someone in 3-6 months that was actively causing problems for everyone around them).

In the end, you'll be much happier.

That's not to say, don't do your work - but don't be afraid, don't be stressed out that everything they give you has to be done at the deadline they ask for it. 95% of the time, if something isn't able to be made by a deadline, you let them know, and they just report it up the chain. Most times the only thing they ask for when finding out it wont make it is just, oh, darn, well when can we expect this by then?

This is effectively why it seems that employees aged 40+ collectively can't or won't get many surprise requests done without saying oh we have to plan this etc months into the future... They are professionals who have learned properly how to manage expectations and keep a work life balance. The sooner you get a handle on this, it will have an exponentially positive affect on your work life.

Additionally - if you say you don't think you can do something in time, and then you work harder overtime for free to succeed, you've just discredited yourself. You're training them not to believe you in the future, because it worked out. Say you will try but may not have enough time to complete it with other things going on, then fail to get it done. This reinforces that you do actually know what you can and can't complete in a time period, and they will likely start to believe when you push back on things in the future.

Don't worry about the concept of being fired by the way... it's very expensive to hire (and train!) new employees. If you are doing an adequate job - and you would know very undoubtably well if you weren't - it would be a huge pain to fire someone just to try and hire someone else for 10-20% more effort, even 50%. There's potential legal liability / risk to firing without cause, and on top of that, the position would sit open for a month or two while they found someone else. It's very rare unless something you're doing makes it so terrible that they realize they'd be better off with the position empty for a while.

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    I don't think the OP needs to intentionally "fail". Just be upfront with realistic estimates when assigned tasks. "If I deliver A by Monday, that means B will slip to next Friday" is much better than committing to both then missing a deadline. Feb 4, 2022 at 13:42
  • What @LaconicDroid said. Intentionally failing is not the answer. It sends a signal to leadership that they're not longer competent at the job they've shown competency at. The decision to stop working the extra work needs to be a deliberate and vocal one. If OP intentionally fails and gets fired, there is no recourse. If OP voices unfair labor practices and gets fired, that's a different story (in most western locales anyway). Feb 4, 2022 at 14:59
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    I think you guys are misunderstanding. The point I'm making here is the OP should do the best job he can in a reasonable 40 hour week. If the management keeps pushing him to do more than he's able to do, he needs to set expectations. If they don't listen, he needs to not stress it and let it fail. The answer isn't to work 60 hours a week every week. There are many companies that will abuse this. He can say I can complete this, but this other project will fail, and set expectation and make them decide, but he needs to be ok with saying no and letting things not magically hit their deadlines
    – schizoid04
    Feb 4, 2022 at 18:55
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    This makes sense. I agree with @schizoid04 that I should do a better job to manage expectations. If I get crammed with more work, then it should take more time even if I can work harder to get it done in the same timeframe. For example, if I have normally have 6 tasks that take 3 days, and now I am assigned 10 tasks, it should naturally take 5 days (regardless of the fact that I could get it done in 3 days if I worked a lot harder). I can work a little faster and get it done in 4.5 days and say I did my best. Ultimately, if they are aren't staffing correctly, things will be slower.
    – tradice9
    Feb 4, 2022 at 23:46
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    I feel like "fail" is the wrong word. "Late" is the right word. I used to try to just accept the work and hope for that supposed pay raise. But, relative to the rate of inflation, I make less now than when I started. But after I turned in several major efforts late (because they just kept piling it on until I couldn't possibly manage it), things stopped getting worse, and since I've gotten enough things in late to get back to 40 hour weeks. Other than fail versus late, this matches my experience.
    – Ed Grimm
    Feb 7, 2022 at 5:19

In short, how can I tell my boss that I will not do any more work without being paid extra (even for a short period) and not be fired or punished for it?

You probably can't. You know your company and your boss better than anyone here could. But most companies and most bosses don't react well to this sort of stance. You may not get fired, but performance reviews could suffer.

You could ask to be changed from salary to hourly status. That's unlikely to work either.

I'm just tired of being taken advantage of. If I'm not getting anything out of it (at least historically), I'd rather just do the bare minimum needed of my paycheck.

If you want to get paid for every hour of your work, you need to find an hourly job. Depending on your profession, you might find that at another company. Or you might want to become a contractor.

If you want to just work the "bare minimum", you need to find an employer who doesn't care if you work hard or not or find one who won't ever expect you to work extra hours.


how do I tell my boss I won't do extra work without being paid more?

As others have mentioned in comments, ultimatums don't usually work well in the workplace.

Pay raises and promotions usually follow the extra work that warrants them. Very few employers will be willing to throw money at you in the hope that you will, at some point in the future, be worth it.

If your long-term interest is to build a career in your current workplace, you will likely need to accept the additional workload and build your prominence upon that, which, if successful, will bring about better pay and more prominent positions.

If your interests are of a shorter-term variety, then job-hopping, as you have noticed, is also a fair approach to higher salaries and better-sounding titles, and it doesn't require overtime (if you don't count the efforts spent looking for a new job). As long as you can up-sell yourself to other employers, you should be OK.

Pick the path that suits you best.

  • This is a good answer, and I agree on the idea that, taking on additional responsibilities is likely to get you promoted etc. Of course, it's still important to do so while managing a reasonable amount of work hours - if you can find a way to say "Hey, I can take ownership of managing / supporting this app we don't have a resource for", while not overcommitting and burning out, or doing more hours than normal, you're golden. In my own experience, I will offer very often that I'm able to do things, while also setting expectations on when I'm available for them. Win win
    – schizoid04
    Feb 4, 2022 at 20:15

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