Above my paygrade

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The expression above my paygrade is used to indicate someone does not know, and that someone more senior is the one to ask. It can mean either that the speaker does not consider themselves competent to answer the question, is not high enough in the organization to answer it, is not authorized to answer it, or just is not paid enough to deal with the problem. It is also used as a way to avoid answering a question, by claiming that it's too important a decision and so someone higher should be asked instead.[1] United States presidential candidate Barack Obama used the phrase when American pastor Rick Warren asked him his view on abortion and at what point a baby should get human rights.[2]

Another similar phrase is "Don't ask me, I'm too low on the totem pole".[3]


  1. ^ Perry M. Smith (2001), Assignment--Pentagon: how to excel in a bureaucracy, Brassey's, p. 58, ISBN 978-1-57488-340-4 
  2. ^ Obama, Barack (17 August 2008). Faith and politics. Interview with Rick Warren. Saddleback Presidential Candidates Forum. Lake Forest, California. Archived from the original on 14 December 2013. 
  3. ^ Paul Dickson (2004), War slang: American fighting words and phrases since the Civil War, Brassey's, ISBN 978-1-57488-710-5