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Tell Your Boss You Don’t Want a Raise

No matter how much money we make (after our basic needs are provided for, of course) — whether it’s $50k or $200k — we always think we’ll be happier with just a little bit more money. “If I can just make a little bit more, then I’ll have enough,” we say. But then once we attain that we find ourselves saying the same thing again, “if I can just make a little bit more, *then* I’ll have enough.”

It’s a never ending cycle that epitomizes the fact that we can never get enough of the stuff we don’t really need. Too many of us make the mistake of living right at or just above our means (too much debt), building in a dependence on future increases in income.

What if we thought about it differently. What if the next time your boss offered you a higher salary, you said “No, thank you. But I would like a shorter work week instead.” You accept that your employer now values your time more. But then you say, “I’d like to keep my salary the same, actually, but I’d like to work fewer hours instead.”

If we did that, a 5% raise would mean a 38 hour work week instead of a 40 hour work week. In time, instead of doubling your salary over 15 years, you would cut your work week to 20 hours. I realize this would require a huge shift in the way we think about work, structure our companies, compensate, etc. But maybe it’s worth it.

At the end of your life, are you going to wish you had had twice the salary? Or twice the time spent with your loved ones helping each other become the people we were made to be? That seems like an easy answer to me.

Yet what have we done with the fruits of massive increases in efficiency, technology and knowledge? It’s revealing. We have an opportunity in front of us our ancestors could have never imagined. We have the chance here to be spending more time and energy with loved ones, nurturing our souls, pursuing God and truth and helping others more than ever before.

But what do we do instead? We work more so we can consume more which requires us to work more. We’ve raised our standard of living to the point of turning extravagant luxuries into “basic needs” so we can justify long hours ignoring our spouses, asking others to raise our kids and never having time to pray.

What are we here for anyway? Maybe we should start thinking about the way we work and why. Tell your boss you’re working for something different.

Published in Popular Essays