Who Signs Your Paycheck?

I have found myself giving the following piece of career advice quite frequently lately, “Remember who signs your paychecks.”

We all want to be respected for our abilities, thoughts and ideas. I believe that, in the best workplaces, people are allowed to do their jobs with at least a bit of latitude, as most jobs can be done effectively in more ways than one. In the plethora of business books of the last decade, there are quite a few that advocate convincing employees to feel like they have “ownership” in the business.

My view is that attitude only goes so far.

Unless you are truly a shareholder, you’re occupying a space that another person can hold tomorrow. Let’s face it –  our bosses all have their sore spots. They all have certain areas they will latch onto like a dog with a bone and they won’t let go. When you decide to take a stand on something – whether it is how to correctly calculate an average, or what items to complete on a “to do” list – take into consideration what the person signing your paycheck wants. In most cases, you’ll find what you think you feel so strongly most likely doesn’t matter all that much compared to continuing to receive a paycheck.

Pride gets in our way.


We all want to be experts in our jobs. Some of us want to be experts in our fields. At times, that combination can swirl into a concoction that is potentially explosive. We can harness this energy. We can channel it into a different area of our job, an area without as much scrutiny. 

Or we can decide it’s not worth it and strike out on our own, becoming the boss. To be clear, I am not advocating ignoring illegal activities, or participating in them. I’m calling out the small stuff. Things don’t seem small in the moment, do with a bit of perspective.

I love my job. I can’t imagine working anywhere else at this point in time. However, I do have days when I have to remind myself I am never going to win “this” particular argument with my boss. On those days, I remember who signs my paycheck and I back down – gracefully, I hope (I’m still working on that part).

Photo credit iStockphoto

About the Author

April Kunzelman

April Kunzelman, PHR, has a wide range of experience in many aspects of personnel management. For over 10 years, she served as the HR Director for fatwallet.com, building an award-winning culture. April now spends her days working with the non-profit organization Chemo Cargo, aimed at assisting first-time chemotherapy patients. Connect with April on Twitter as @akunzel and @chemocargo.


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Wow! This could be one particular of the most helpful blogs We ave ever arrive across on this subject. Actually Wonderful. I am also a specialist in this topic so I can understand your hard work.

April Kunzelman

@Emily: great point. Expanding your energy outside of work can fuel your very soul, if you’re doing something you truly believe in and love. We’re lucky if we find that at work, too.

@Anita: you’re right. I don’t advocate staying somewhere just for the paycheck. Your personal values and principles are worth something. What I intended to call out here are the minor differences.For example, when it boils down to what order to complete tasks on a list, when all of them will get done eventually, do it the boss’s way – despite how you feel about it.

@Laura: most days, I think that’s exactly it. 🙂


In everyone’s working live, including a self-employed one, events happen where you want to take stand, but decide not to due to consequences. That might be a paycheck, security, or maybe the effect it will have on others. Point is to distinguish between important principles and minor arguments.

A paycheck is important at the end of the month. And yes, sometimes your boss might put the greater good of the company before your personal beliefs. That’s all in the game. But if you feel that your boss constantly violates your principles, and you back down based on the importance of your paycheck, then you should start looking for another job. Don’t think it is different when self-employed, since refusing the customer something on principle means no payment for services rendered or no new assignment.

In the end, it all comes down to what principles violate your sense of self and are worth standing up for, that determine how much you are willing to accept in return for a paycheck. And sometimes you just have to stand up for yourself regardless of the consequences.


This is a very good point and one we all need to be reminded of from time to time. Put your energy where it will affect change – don’t waste it on wishful thinking that you can alter something you can’t! I also found it to be immensely helpful to do a lot of fulfilling things outside of work.


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