I am a software engineer at a startup. I'm feeling burned out from my job and am not performing up to what I would consider par. Therefore, I do not believe it is ethical for me to accept my salary, at least the full amount. How can I politely ask my employer not to give it to me until I feel that I have improved?

I thought about removing my account number from our payroll system but not sure if that would work.

  • 260
    Are you going to expect extra pay on days when you are on a roll, feeling great, and the code just flows? Commented Nov 17, 2016 at 20:00
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    I'm feeling burned out from my job and am not performing up to what I would consider par. Therefore, I do not believe it is ethical for me to accept my salary Serious question - why do you jump to "don't pay me" instead of "I need a vacation" or "time to find a new job" or "I quit"? Commented Nov 18, 2016 at 3:48
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    I added tags psychology, mental-health, burnout since in all sincerity the strong consensus here is those may be the actual underlying issue; the original question asked didn't have a legal answer.
    – smci
    Commented Nov 18, 2016 at 12:20
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    Does this sound like you? It's very common amongst software engineers, especially the top performing ones. Commented Nov 18, 2016 at 19:28
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    Is this a troll?! Commented Nov 19, 2016 at 14:45

14 Answers 14


In short, no, you should not remove an account number or refuse pay.

You must be doing something right, because if you were really doing a bad job, you would be fired. It is understandable to feel like you aren't doing any good work or you are burned out, but the ultimate decision on how you are performing comes down to the company.

If you really need some form of validation, go ask your boss/colleagues/ceo of the startup for a quick status meeting and ask if your work lately is up to snuff and satisfying all requirements. If they say yes, then you should feel good. If you still feel bad, maybe that is indicative of something deeper and aligned with you not feeling challenged or engaged at work.

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    There's a good chance the managers will take their cue from the OP in case the OP shows up with an even slightly unhappy face and asks more or less "Do you really think I'm working hard enough?". Their line of thinking may become "Oh, even khrit themselves think they're not doing well, there must be something to it!". Or even "Hey, here's an employee who's unsure about themselves and their performance, let's see what we can squeeze out of them before they fall over!" The employer is not an objective, unbiased evaluator of worth. Better to discuss this with an external counsellor first... Commented Nov 18, 2016 at 8:59
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    @SurprisedEuropean still, it's better than simply saying "don't pay me", right? But informal talk with colleagues at the same level or something more like "I feel you want from me more than I can give now, this job is burning me out" might be better, as it points to the real problem and does not put a blame on OP.
    – Mołot
    Commented Nov 18, 2016 at 9:40
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    @Mołot Yes, way better. But still, the OP shouldn't give the managers an opportunity to justify the feeling of low (self-)worth without examining where the feeling comes from first. Better to use the "undeserved" money to get some counselling on depression, imposter syndrome or maybe just how to self-organise better so that they can improve their game. Which would likely benefit the employer as well because satisfied employees tend to deliver better quality. Commented Nov 18, 2016 at 9:52
  • +1 you should be having weekly catch-ups with your manager. There should be no surprises. If you're doing fine they can tell you. If you have to improve areas they can tell you. It's that simple, provided you listen, which is not always easy to do. Commented Nov 18, 2016 at 10:52
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    @SurprisedEuropean Yes clearly the boss that offers you a raise that you didn't ask for is a Machiavellian genius. Paying people more than they expect is simply to trick them into admitting they could be working harder. Bwwwwahahaha!
    – JimmyJames
    Commented Nov 18, 2016 at 21:57

I sympathize greatly with you on this issue but I must agree with @dfundako that the ultimate responsibility of determining your worth to the company lies with the company.

Here's an 'outside of the box' suggestion: Consider donating whatever amount you are uncomfortable receiving to a worthy cause (Unemployment assistance, homeless shelter, etc.). That could ease your conscience without harming your future prospects.


How can I politely ask my employer not to give it to me until I feel that I have improved?

Chances are good that's illegal. I'm not a lawyer, or even an HR person, but there are state laws governing pay, including how often they're required to pay you. They can't just decide to not pay you.

Any decent company would not want their reputation tied to this kind of behavior (Did you hear they refuse to pay employees for performance reasons?) or want to enter into a payment agreement that would require all parties to keep it secret. There's absolutely nothing ethical about not paying someone working in what's supposed to be a paid position.

I would also think that this could cause problems with benefits (if they provide any) and employment taxes. Speaking of which:

I thought about removing my account number from our payroll system but not sure if that would work.

Do not do this.

If you wish to leave this company, then quit, but do not get yourself fired or worse by tampering with the payroll system.

Things you can do instead:

  • Take some time off. If you're at all able to get some rest, please do so.
  • Have a discussion with your manager about your performance. Please take them at their word if they're happy with it. If not, discuss what you can change.
  • Also talk to them about your workload/responsibilities. You may be able to ask to move into a different position or convince them to hire more help.
  • Talk to someone who can help you manage your stress better. Sabotage is not a reasonable response to work stress; it worries me that you're thinking that way even if you're not entirely serious.
  • Start job hunting. This job might just not be for you and that's OK.

Regarding the charity suggestions: Please don't take those as an OK to give away your entire paycheck.

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    Tampering with accounts in payroll could very well land you in jail. That is fraud and is illegal in many countries.
    – HLGEM
    Commented Nov 17, 2016 at 22:18
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    @HLGEM Even worse, it could look like the intent was to make the company make something illegal and them suing/extorting them. Additionally, a) no payroll software worth its name will fail to warn that it is supposed to pay someone with no account and b) Accounting should easily notice that there is more money in the bank than it was supposed to be there (that is one of the reasons of doing the whole accounting thing, although they usually try to prevent having less money than expected).
    – SJuan76
    Commented Nov 18, 2016 at 9:30
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    @HLGEM: That sounds a bit excessive. Our HR self-service system allows employees to change their account numbers directly. People change banks from time to time, and there's really no need to get HR staff involved in such trivia. (But you couldn't remove your number as it must be a valid IBAN number)
    – MSalters
    Commented Nov 18, 2016 at 11:20
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    Something like, "I feel like I haven't been as effective as I could be recently. If you think so too, let's talk about what we might do about it." If he doesn't agree, then you can say that maybe you're imagining things and thank him for reassuring you. If he does agree, be ready with some ideas about changing your responsibilities or the like. Commented Nov 18, 2016 at 11:54
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    @MSaltersm changing something you are allowed to change through the user interface is acceptable, going into the backend and changing things without permission is not. I had made teh assumption that was what he was suggesting. Perhaps I was in error. But removing the bank account number woudl simply generate a paper check in any decently designed system as they legally have to pay you. Changing the backend so the system no longer tries to pay you would be illegal in most jurisdictions.
    – HLGEM
    Commented Nov 18, 2016 at 14:41

The market seems to be valuing you higher than you think you're worth. You should take the money.

First, it's odd to reject compensation. You will raise red flags with management. It's just strange behavior.

Second, it's not unethical to decline compensation but you will set a terrible precedent. They will remember this and may decide not to offer bonuses in the future...which may not be a problem unless you think you should get one.

If you find that you simply cannot bear to keep the money you can always give it to a charity; you don't need to keep it! The acpilot Retirement Charity and General Slush Fund is accepting donations and would be honored to relieve you of any money you believe you have not earned!! We prefer briefcases full of cash but will settle for a sack with a dollar sign on it.

Edit: At least one person took my charity pitch seriously so I guess this needs a warning label...

Caution: do not actually send money to anyone claiming to be a representative of the acpilot Retirement Charity and General Slush Fund. If anyone approaches you claiming to represent aRC&GSF, they are scamming you.

  • Yes, if you feel uncomfortable with that extra money you think you don't deserve, there are tons of people that can better the world with it. Your therapyst for one. I bet your therapyst can better your world with that extra cash. Commented Nov 17, 2016 at 20:18
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    Please let OP choose where to donate (if at all). Even if it's a non-rpofit organisation, your last paragraph basically is advertisment.
    – deviantfan
    Commented Nov 17, 2016 at 20:47
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    However I am a Nigerian prince and have a huge fortune I would like to share with you... Commented Nov 17, 2016 at 22:57
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    @deviantfan It was a joke. If you notice "acpilot" is the poster's username plus the silly charity name, and the absurd payment delivery options are all signals this is a joke.
    – Erik
    Commented Nov 17, 2016 at 23:03

Your asking this question raises major concerns about your health. I don't mean that as a criticism; mental health is incredibly important and the earlier you can intervene, the more problems you will save yourself.

I went through a health collapse a few years ago, and one of the effects was that I felt strongly about all sorts of ethical issues that aligned with my values. I presented arguments that seemed very convincing on paper, but in hindsight, they were completely lacking in perspective. Some were kind of crazy. I was a soul in desperate need of ways to be true to my beliefs.

I care deeply about many ethical issues; I always have. I think it is an honourable quality. But when my health deteriorated, I began to act on this in quite different ways to usual. The brain struggles with complex tasks when under a lot of stress; as a result I had a sort of "tunnel vision" and I could not see the big picture. I focussed on little details.

Let me give you a few thoughts that might help you see the big picture in your situation.

An ethical employer should see employees as more than just an expendable resource. The people in a business work together to create wealth, and the business should reward its employees with a share in that wealth. This goes beyond money; it can include rewarding work, a stimulating environment, social interaction, experience, training, opportunities, and various types of support, whilst employees contribute to a business in more ways than just completing tasks. In addition, employees should be seen as human beings and given a reasonable level of tolerance and leniency. A business that bleeds employees dry then kicks them out is clearly unethical. So, make sure you see yourself as more than an expendable resource.

Taking care of yourself is ethically vital. Over the long term, people who look after themselves can do much more for others. People who neglect themselves end up with nothing to give. It is certainly important for your employer that you restore (or at least stabilise) your health, otherwise you will eventually have to leave, which would mean your employer losing an asset.

Instead of asking "what am I worth?", ask "how can I become valuable again?" If your workload is too high, let your employer know. If you need to take some time off, let your employer know. (This makes a lot more sense to me than working full-time, inefficiently, for reduced pay.) If you are not sure what you need, talk to a healthcare professional, or someone you know; it is helpful to get an objective opinion.

Keep in mind that your burnout may be due to high workload and stress, but it also may be due to a deterioration of your personal life. Remember that a healthy diet, social interaction, sleep, exercise and attitude are important.

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    "Remember that a healthy diet, social interaction, sleep, exercise and attitude are important." Everyone is different and I wouldn't be so sure about social interaction being important. Many software engineers are introverts which actually gain energy while alone and lose while in a group
    – kukis
    Commented Nov 19, 2016 at 15:24

In addition to the existing answers regarding a reevaluation of the question whether this position is right for you and the possibility of donating a part of your salary, it is also possible that you have impostor syndrome.

It seems that you hold yourself to higher standards than your boss does. (Unless he should also be unhappy with your performance but hasn't told you just yet.) These standards are a positive thing as long as you realize that you're already on par and aim higher, they should not keep you from being satisfied with your performance in general.


Been there, done that :)

Excellent answers and comments. I'll add my bit to the pool. I do not have an answer to your question (since I was quite rude in rejecting the pay) but I'll try my best in helping you feel better.

I made the mistake and it has several downsides (Don't consider the monetary downsides for now)


It was an internship and I did loads of actual work. I worked for 8 - 9 hours a days. I had an amazing boss who would spend considerable time guiding me and teaching me stuff. The whole lot were very caring and genuine. They even tried convincing me to take a pay 7 to 8 times.

The work I do can be done by any programmer with a year to two of experience. I'm currently 20 years old and it's my 4 month here. As you probably know interns normally aren't given any importance but it isn't the case here. They try to involve me in every activity possible and ensure that I learn as much as possible.

They gave their best yet I could not produce anything tangible that would justify their investment for about 2 weeks

A month into the internship and I become super productive and contribute loads (the work that I do doesn't directly help them make money). At times they become very busy with client work and don't have much time to spare for me (I don't mean I'm entitled to their time). At times they've asked us to put in extra hours. And not to forget that I'm very respectful and punctual.

It's such a remarkable period. They understand my needs and I understand their. I regret being rude especially because I'm young.

Things tend to happen fast in internships. Jobs not so much. Since you've got the thought of refusing pay instead of quitting, it's kinda obvious that you respect the job and the people there. Periods where you feel like a ninja and periods where you feel like a snail tend to come and go. They might even stretch for relatively longer stretches of time.

Firstly do not refuse pay.

  • How would you feel about hiring a genuine person who puts in efforts and not paying him?
  • Your boss can interpret it as being proud.
  • When you feel that you deserve a pay, it'll become difficult to ask for a pay.
  • If you consider switching jobs your future employers might value you less.
  • They might go overboard in trying to help you out. Since you think so much, that might upset you as well.
  • It does not guarantee that you'll become better and start contributing something worthwhile.
  • Your boss might be able to do what you do in much lesser time. The time you put in is key and you have bills to pay.

Things you should understand/do

  • Ask for a different role that does not wear you out. You can switch between the two. I say this because you've mentioned that it's a startup and as far as I know you are given more freedom than well setup business houses.

  • Take a mini vacation. Your productivity should shoot after that. Make sure you aren't being paid for the vacation :)

  • Take sometime out and learn relevant stuff everyday so that you can get things done faster.

  • A lot of jobs involve learning on the job. Hence the employees cannot contribute during that phase.

  • We are all humans. We aren't brimming with energy all the time. It's okay to not be productive. Don't be harsh on yourself.

  • Consistency is the key. You don't have to give 100% everytime. Work hard and try becoming better.

  • The startup too will expect you to put in extra hours of work at times. Don't crib and support their decision.

  • Companies invest in people. Investments aren't rosy all the time.

  • Find out what others contribute. You might be having very high expectations from yourself.

When relationships are good, you can always make things work. You needn't take this extreme step.

Try solving the actual problem. Don't find a way to reduce guilt :)


It's not unethical.

What you are worth in terms of a salary is NOT determined by what YOU think.

What you are worth is determined by what you can get people to agree to pay you.

No different than a bar of soap being worth as much as a business can charge for it and still make enough sales to cover the cost of producing the soap.


Pay is by salary. Your boss chose this pay structure. You pay a lawyer even if you lose a case. You pay a doctor even if you don't get better. You pay a pharmacist even if the medicine didn't work for you. Life isn't perfect.

I certainly have had my days when i got a lot done, and my days I didn't get hardly anything done.


For everyone's convenience and financial planning, salaries for long term jobs are based on your average performance, not your best days and not your worst days, and especially not the days you are off sick or on paid vacation. People have ups and downs, but continually adjusting salaries according to employee mood would be an administrative nightmare.

Much of the cost of carrying an employee is in payroll taxes, reserves for sick and vacation days, office space, furniture, computers, manager costs, HR costs, etc. Those things go on even if you are not being paid. Indeed, doing something unusual with your salary would actually increase your share of management, HR, payroll, and possibly legal advice costs. Your employer is more likely to want you working at your normal level and being paid normally than to want to save on your salary.

So, your objective should be to get back to normal productivity. There are several good strategies in prior answers, such as taking a vacation and checking with your doctor in case you are depressed. Adding financial worries due to reduced income is not one of them.


You are a salaried employee. You get a fixed amout of money every month. At regular times, usually once an year, companies review their workers' salaries and handle raises, promotions, empty promises or pink slips, according to workers' results and the company policies.

Fixed salaries are great because they are stable. You get it if you are sick, if the company has no projects, if sales go down or even if you are stupid.

Owners on the other hand take the risk. They can get rich but they also risk losing it all. That's their bet, not yours.

You should not in any way feel bad for taking the salary you agreed to. You fully deserve it. For all the time you put in before, for all the good things you will do. For all the things you could have done have they not overworked you. It's part of the way business works.

As for burnout, that's absolutely the company's problem. They are now paying back in your reduced productivity their lack of proper management.

But they won't pay you for the stress they caused to you. Take care of that yourself. Make sure you don't work overtime. Use your holiday to have a really good time. Maybe see a counsellor if you feel depressive. Try to reconnect with a hobby you enjoy.

This is fully what you both need and deserve. It's not your mistake. You should not pay for it.

  • More so, even if the company did misjudge and award the wrong salary, that's their problem, and they have to own it. If they realise their mistake later and decide to bring it down, they will. Pointedly trying to pre-empt them by asking for less money is unlikely to do anything to help the situation either way - and the idea of going into the payroll data and removing the account number is completely absurd. Rather, the things the OP should do are to ensure they're thinking clearly, & if they're still sceptical about their pay, then ask more generally for a review, maybe a training plan, etc Commented Nov 19, 2016 at 13:41

Ethics does not come into the picture here. I assume you are a staff employee, and not a contract employee. In any case, the value of an employee is not just in the salary paid. You add value to the startup with your presence. Even if you didn't work productively for a few days, the cost of your salary would average out to normal.

Companies already know two facts:

  • Even if the number of working hours are 8, the employees would do actual work only for around 6 hours.
  • Some days, there will be a lot of work. Some days there won't. Some days employees will work to their full potential. Some days they won't. Some days they might need casual leaves because of some emergency.

Shocking fact: Actually, you and other employees should be paid much much more than what you are already earning. Google for how much a freelancer charges per hour for the same kind of work you do. Find out how much your company is charging your client per hour. What you get paid, is a small amount of your actual work, after the company subtracts operational expenses, costs of the two facts I've mentioned in points above and a whole lot of other expenses.

Another reason you are valuable even you aren't productive is:

  • You have domain knowledge of the company product(s).
  • You have familiarity with the technologies, co-workers and clients.

It is entirely worth it for a company to pay you just to keep you onboard even if you aren't doing any work for a while. The money you are getting is fully deserved. Keep it. Your manager/HR, no matter how kind hearted, will only see you as a simpleton if you make an offer to take no salary. You won't get ANY plus points in their eyes. Instead, it'll lower your standing because they will see you as a person who does not understand the corporate world. This is a corporate; not school or a religious institution.

If it's about ethics, then there is the Unethical Decision Making; Preventing Ethical Blindness online course will help you focus on what you really need to concentrate on, when considering ethics.

ps: We get taught a lot of "do good" things in school and religion. You need to understand that those teachings are only to give us a sense of security and right and wrong during childhood. The adult world is different. It's time to start learning how the corporate world works.

  • What do you mean by "your client"?
    – khrit344
    Commented Nov 18, 2016 at 20:52
  • Who will eventually be buying and using the product you create? Some company or person? That company or person is your client.
    – Nav
    Commented Nov 20, 2016 at 22:07

Khrit, first off, I do agree with the others that suggest you should very carefully seek input on your physical and mental position, as indeed unfortunately we often are prone to "make choices" that we really aren't making, when it comes down to it. How many times have we looked back later and thought "what in the world was I possibly thinking there?!?". It's easy to go astray when we hit a rough patch, and it's even easier when we're not OK physically. So please do seek out input from the right people regarding that.

That said, it's depressing that no one even seems to consider the remotest of possibilities that someone might legitimately make such a decision on moral/fairness/doing-the-right-thing grounds.

It could be driven underneath by strong religious/honor principles.
It could be driven by a passion to see the company do well. It could be because the person is rather quite "hippyish" on things like shunning worldly possessions.
There are lots of different reasons one could reach this mindset, and they're absolutely not all based on questions of sanity or intelligence. But it seems most here just want to convince you that you are wrong.

If someone's fundamental position is that "a man should get what he earns", shouldn't that truly work both ways? If someone is willing to request a raise when their boss doesn't offer one, shouldn't they in fairness also be willing to request a pay cut when they feel they aren't doing their fair share??

A pastor can turn down his salary. A humanitarian worker can venture out for nothing.
Heck, if a company we bought a service from comes back to us and says "gosh, we don't think we did a good job, it's on the house", no one would be in an uproar... so it seems troubling that people would instinctively dismiss your notion.

Maybe it really isn't all about what we can gain from life.
It won't be popular, but if you're a person reading this, and you think it just a great windfall when you score free benefits from others, but outlandish that one should ever do that himself, consider that mathematically there must always be an equal amount of giving to account for those taking.
Such thinking is with survival of the fittest.
Such thinking is also directly in line with the character of Scrooge.
I for one applaud that there may be people that do things thinking more about the bigger picture/others, and that passions for fairness can trump self gain.

It can be easy to make these choices for the wrong reasons, definitely. Look, Khrit, my advice is that you must you must first work towards strong internal reliability to make unbiased choices.
To be able to dig in, and seek out ulterior motives that may be clouding the picture.
You can't do this to feel better about yourself/pat yourself on the back.
Or to please someone (such as the boss).
Or because you secretly enjoy self-castigation.
Or because you want to feel owed by others.
Or feel at liberty to act as you please, no longer constrained by the weight that comes with salary.
Or you want to feel safer in your job position.
All of those belie there is indeed bias festering underneath. And indeed, none of these reasons will likely bring about your wish in the longterm.

And perhaps most applicably, don't do it because of stress, thinking that it will be the magical release and it will just make it all go away.

Try to really be very challenging with yourself, looking for what deeper reasons are in the WHY you're drawn towards making this choice.

Perhaps it would also be wise to seek some intimate counsel from someone who knows you closely. That's not always an option... and it can also be very tough in circumstances like these where many people are likely to have the same immediate reflex shown here to decry the idea on principle without considering the circumstances more deeply. But if you can find someone who is open and wise, they can offer perspective and help you dig in to see whether any other issues are at play in wanting to do this.

As to the details of it... there are certainly labor laws which indeed could make it challenging.

Ideally, shouldn't it be that a person could somehow legitimately request such a move like this? We're living in a world where the growing sentiment seems to be "you should be free to do whatever you feel like." You can cheat on your wife, slash your wrists, or gamble all your money away without any restriction or mandated repercussions, but cannot turn down a salary based on ethical positions??? Unfortunately, I do also see the other side... it'd likely be quickly taken advantage of by some unscrupulous companies, and be pretty tough to patrol.

That said, maybe there are still some feasible options to work without getting paid. Maybe you could shift into a volunteer position or intern. It would depend both on what the law would allow, and on how much the company is interested in respecting your position.

Additionally, since you did mention you are in a startup, perhaps a lot of your concern is rather in a wish to see the company survive the period and grow into its potential? If that is where it's at, you could see if there are legal ways you can get paid in stock rather than salary. You wouldn't be the first to do that.

Perhaps you should sit down for a quiet talk with the boss, and try to explain your feelings. Face the problem straight on. Trying to get around it by fiddling with the payroll system probably (almost certainly) just winds up making things more complicated. If you really feel this way, you have to do it right.
Your boss will probably struggle with it a bit, show a bit of shock, and may well propose that you're doing this for wrong reasons. But perhaps if you make your request earnestly and soberly, and you continue to show you're acting rationally and thoughtfully in your everyday interactions, maybe you could convince them to work something out after a little while.

Now it may well also not be taken well. The company may flatly reject your request without any real consideration. Perhaps that leads to things getting worse, maybe even driving you towards questions of whether your employers themselves make smart/caring/fair/committed decisions, whether this is the right spot to be. Or they may lose confidence in you, start to see you as a loose cannon. Or it could even give them the motivation to inspect your work more, and realize you really aren't the employee you want!

Also realize, if you do wish to keep such an act quiet (perhaps wishing not to be a distraction/spectacle, or to make others feel bad)... people at your job may well still get wind of your choice (perhaps because others need to be brought on board to facilitate it, perhaps because of gossip, perhaps because the boss doesn't feel comfortable keeping such secrets, etc). And once it's known, quite a few people may start to see you as some mix between being self-righteous and being legitimately nuts... and it may be much colder at the workplace if that happens... That said, if you're convinced you're doing it for the right reasons, society is always telling us not to make choices based upon what people will think.
And generally it will blow over with time, if people get to know you for who you really are.

Honestly, if we live in a world where a range of people from Donald Trump to Michael Bloomberg to Elon Musk and Mark Zuckerberg can all turn down salaries, for a variety of reasons, is it really so preposterous that we might carefully choose such? Even moreso if we are indeed convinced we have done bad work?

khrit, I really hope your work turns around, and that you can soon oncemore feel confident that you are doing very productive work. It may not be popular, but there are people out there in their right mind who have made this choice and it has worked out ok. You have my support in this challenging time sir! Best wishes with it all!

  • 2
    Pretty sure those billionaires are in pretty unique circumstances. The normal rules don't apply when your monthly investment dividend is going to buy office blocks.
    – Gusdor
    Commented Nov 18, 2016 at 10:44
  • 1
    This didn't really answer the question in a way that is suitable for a Q/A forum. You have some decent points but you have gone way too much into detail and tangents. Looking answers aren't nervously bad, but they should do so only when a long technical explanation is required.
    – user30031
    Commented Nov 19, 2016 at 15:01

You should strive for better but you shouldn't worry, and definitely not deprecate yourself, as that would probably make it worse.

If you were really underperforming, you would been told so. Until then, don't worry, even the very best programmers have unproductive days/weeks, as Joel Spolsky, CEO of Stack overflow confesses in his blog

(...) Sure, I come into the office, putter around, check my email every ten seconds, read the web, even do a few brainless tasks like paying the American Express bill. But getting back into the flow of writing code just doesn't happen.

These bouts of unproductiveness usually last for a day or two. But there have been times in my career as a developer when I went for weeks at a time without being able to get anything done. As they say, I'm not in flow. I'm not in the zone. I'm not anywhere.

Software engineering (or programming) is a weird job. It is said that the average programmer produces 10 productive lines of code a day. Be that true of not, when you self evaluate if you are up to par, do it on a year or six month average, not based on the last weeks/month

(probably this is more a comment than a proper answer. Unfortunately I don't currently have the rights to comment)

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