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R. J. Fletcher: You idiot! Can't you do anything right? Does this look like a number two pencil to you? Richard Fletcher: No, I just thought... R. J. Fletcher: You thought?! I don't pay you to think! Richard Fletcher: But daaaaaad! R. J. Fletcher: SHUT UP!
A Stock Phrase that indicates that an employee wasn't hired for their brains.
Sometimes, it's important to think on your feet. A mind is a terrible thing to waste and a little brains can take you a long way. But people in authority sometimes fear those with a brain in their head. After all, someone who thinks is someone who may start to question authority, their authority. The basic idea is that someone in a lowly position gets a bright idea, but is told that either they're not paid to think, or that it's not their job to think, or some other form of that. Might be a low-level employee in a company, or it could be something like a minion to the Big Bad.
To some degree, Truth in Television; many large organizations, such as the military, depend on everyone sticking to the same plan, and it isn't always reasonable to convince or fully explain it to each and every person involved, so acting on individual decision-making instead of instructions can undermine your organization's larger goals. A soldier who thinks too much and doesn't obey orders is therefore considered a liability.
In the end, however, bosses who hold to this philosophy only have themselves to blame when they find themselves Surrounded by Idiots. If this is common in your work place, it's one of the sure signs your boss is unfit for the job.
If the boss or Big Bad is seriously annoyed by this thinking behavior, he may demote said employee/minion to an even lowlier position, fire them (sometimes literally), or tell them You, Get Me Coffee.
See also, Don't Think. Feel.
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Inverted in an episode of the English dub of Yu-Gi-Oh! 5Ds, when Divine tells his Captain Obvious lackey as they're observing Aki, "I don't pay you to tell me what I know — she needs fixing!"
One standalone strip in Fluble rides this for all its worth, with Clown's boss saying no less than three variations of it:
"Dammit Coinean, I don't pay you to ask relevant questions! I pay you to shred Arruda files!"
"Dammit Coinean, I don't pay you to point out my obvious stupidity! I pay you to make Arruda files!"
"Dammit Coinean, I don't pay you to shred Arruda files! I pay you to shred Arruda files!"
A single panel strip from Sticky Comics features a boss saying this line and nothing else to a corporate scientist.
Films — Animation
In the original 101 Dalmatians, Horace comments "I've been thinking," and Jasper grabs him by the shirt and tells him that he's warned him about thinking. "I've got the knob for this job, so let's get on with it."
In Rock and Rule, Mok comes up with this gem when his talking-head minions actually dare to voice their doubts about his plan:
"When I want your opinions, I'll give them to you!"
A slightly different version of this trope in Tintin.
Cohaagen: First you try and kill Quaid, and then you let him get away! Richter: He had help from our side, sir. Cohaagen: I know that. Richter: But I thought... Cohaagen: Who told you to think? I don't give you enough information to think. You do what you're told. That's what you do.
Agent Smecker gets a few of these in The Boondock Saints, including one along the lines of, "Greenly, the day I want the Boston Police to do my thinking for me, I will have a fucking tag on my toe!" Though in Smecker's case, it's more of looking down on their investigative capacity than "hiring them for their brains."
Things to Come actually has this line used in a Rousing Speech given by The Chief, a local tinpot dictator, to the men who've tried to provide him with an air force (a few decrepit biplanes) capable of taking on John Cabal's huge flying wings.
"You are not mechanics, but warriors. You have been trained not to think, but to die. I salute you! I, your Chief!"
Brick Top: He's been quite a busy little bastard, that Turkish.
Errol: I think you've let him get away with enough, Guv'nor.
Brick Top: It'll get you in a lot of trouble thinking, Errol. I wouldn't do too much of it.
Brick Top: What do you think, Errol?
Errol: I think we should drip dry 'em, Guv'nor. While we've got the chance.
Brick Top: (exasperated) It was a rhetorical question, Errol. What have I told you about thinking?
The Thing (2011). Kate objects to taking a tissue sample from the ice-bound alien. Her boss reprimands her for questioning his authority in front of the others. "You're not here to think. You're here to get that thing out of the ice."
Rocky has an example of this when Rocky only collects 130 dollars from someone who owed his boss 200:
Rocky: I figured... look, I figured if I break the guy's thumb, he gets laid off, right? Then he can't make...
Gazzo: Yeah, well don't figure! Let me do the figurin', okay, Rock? From here on in, just let me do the figuring, you know? These guys think we're running some kind of charity or something. That they can get off light. From here on in, do what I tell you to do, because it's bad for my reputation! You understand?
In The Invisible Heart: An Economic Romance, a boss tells an employee "I really don't care what you think. I don't pay you to think. I especially don't pay you to think about corporate strategy. I pay you to run the research department and run it well."
In Prison Romance, this occurs with a ho who is told "I don't pay you to think, I don't pay you to talk..."
In Atlas Shrugged, Directive 10-289, the "moratorium on brains," chains all existing employees to their jobs, with a potential penalty of jail for any that quit. If any do quit, anyway (or lose their job for other reasons), that job is then assigned to someone else by a government committee, regardless of that person's ability to actually do the job.
Dr. Cruces gets Lord Downey both coming and going in Men at Arms.
Downey: Doctor, I think— Cruces: Think? You're not paid to think! Heaven knows where the idiot has got to. I ordered the Guild searched! Why didn't anyone force the door? Downey: Sorry, doctor, Edward left us weeks ago and I didn't think— Cruces: You didn't think? What are you paid for?
In Unseen Academicals, Smeems tells Mr Nutt he's not paid to think. Nutt responds with a bland "Shall endevour not to do so, sir", but when Smeems asks him to work out how to get him down from the Emperor Candle, Nutt can't resist replying "I thought I wasn't paid to think, sir."
In one of The Science of Discworld books, Ridcully asks Ponder if he's being paid to think. Ponder calmly replies that yes, he is.
Similarly in Friday by Robert A. Heinlein. The Chief of the California Confederacy tells one of his minions that HE does the thinking, then moments later chews the minion out for not getting Friday a chair, saying: "Do I have to think of everything myself?"
This is the attitude of many of the vermin commanders in the Redwall series of books.
Tsarmina: Thought?! Who gave you permission to think?
This actually gets one of the villain underlings killed in Mossflower. Sent out to trail Tsarmina, he comes back to one of her commanders and says that he thought he'd better come back and report. At first, he is praised, but then another commander asks "Who told you that you had permission to think?" and tells him go to right back out and find Tsarmina. He does so, and ends up getting killed by Tsarmina, who in a haze of crazed revenge believes him to be her traitor brother Gingivere.
Used in the 1960s children's adventure novel Manxmouse, by Paul Gallico. A group of hounds is hunting for a fox and a young Private states "I think he's in there, under that hedge, sir." A General replies "Quiet! I'm the one here who's paid to think."
Tiny, the Dumb Muscle German soldier from the Sven Hassel novels, is always saying that he was told by his superiors not to think. "Leave it to the horses, they've got bigger heads."
In The Red Pyramid, the chaos god Set does this when the demon Face of Horror raises an objection after Set gets upset with him for apparently moving too slowly in gathering other demons to do his bidding.
Face of Horror: But master, I thought...
Set: Do not think, demon.
In the episode "Bar Association" on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Quark tells Leeta "I don't pay you to think. I pay you to spin the Dabo wheel."
Jenny:(regarding her dog) What's this on his head? This is Mauve. This is not orange. Marissa: Well, the groomer ran out of orange, so we thought we would... Jenny: No. No, no. I don't pay you to think. (to the dog) Do I, Sounder? Do I pay her to think? (to Marissa) He hates you. So take him back to the groomers now and get orange ribbons so that he can like you again. That's it.
In "Smart the Assassin" from Get Smart, Devonshire tells someone "KAOS doesn't pay you to think, you men were sent here to obey."
This is inverted on Newsradio in a episode. Dave brings a problem to Jimmy and Jimmy points out Dave was hired to worry about these problems so Jimmy doesn't have to deal with them.
Used as a reprimand not of the minion, but of the boss in War of the Worlds. The Martian mooks have contacted their ruling trio for instructions.
"Why can't these lower creatures think for themselves?"
"OUR job is to think! THEIRS is to obey, and we must never confuse the two!"
Occurs on Doctor Who many times. One of the earliest is in "Day of the Daleks," where the malevolent pepperpots tell the Controller that "the function of the human is to obey."
Prof. Kerensky espouses the inverse of the trope in "City of Death:"
"I do my work...I don't ask too many questions."
Doctor: Professor...a scientist's job is to ask questions.
Mr. Diagoras says this to the construction workers in "Daleks in Manhattan."
Dilbert: Wally's general attitude is the inversion: you don't pay me enough to think.
The Rock says, "It doesn't matter what you think!"
Referenced by Lightning in Final Fantasy XIII. "'These Cocoon people' have spent centuries under fal'Cie rule, in constant fear of a Pulse invasion. If it weren't for Serah, I'd have been out there too. Hunting l'Cie. Would have been nothing but targets to me."
Played with an odd way in Advance Wars: Days of Ruin as it's not an authority saying this but a person speaking of themselves. Gage's quote is actually "They don't pay me to think".
Said word for word by General Randall in Prototype. Hilariously, he says it to a scientist.
Subverted in a strip of The Order of the Stick, when Belkar says this to Vaarsuvius, the party's wizard. V retorts by angrily saying s/he's not paid to do anything but think.
This article all but advises the reader to quit their job if they have a manager who would say something like this, noting "Life is way too short to spend another minute working for someone who could speak these words."