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  Boss: I need three volunteers... *points* You, you, and you.



 Minion: Why don't we send a volunteer to ________?

Boss: Good idea! Thanks for volunteering!


A dirty job needs to get done. The boss is asking volunteers to step forward. No way are you going to get mixed up in a sticky situation like that. Your mama didn't raise no fool. Suddenly you are shoved forward by some of your "friends". The boss smiles. Wait- No! You just got volunteered!

There are lots of different versions of this:

  • As above, but your friends don't even bother pushing, they just say you volunteer.
  • The guy in charge picks people and simply calls you "volunteers."
  • The person who suggested the job in the first place is volunteered.
  • (Usually military) Everyone is lined up, and the leader/commander asks for volunteers to step forward — and promptly everybody except our protagonist steps backwards, making it look like the protagonist stepped forward.
  • The heroes are faced with the challenge. In unison, everyone turns to look at one person.
  • When one person is out of the room for some reason, the rest have a vote and elect the unlucky absentee to the post.
  • In a duo, one person asks the other to pick a number, and upon hearing their answer immediately declares them the loser.

However it happens, the Unwilling Volunteer agrees to do it anyways. Maybe because he's just too nice a guy to say no. Maybe he doesn't want to leave people in the lurch. Maybe he really doesn't want to cross the boss. Or maybe he just doesn't want to be labeled a coward.

Usually played as comedy, although occasionally it's played for drama.

Commonly volunteered in this way: Boxed Crooks, Condemned Contestant, The Bait, and Cincinnatus

The opposite of Martyr Without a Cause. If it's the Call to Adventure, then the protagonist never got a chance at Refusal of the Call because other people accepted it for him.

Examples of Got Volunteered include:

Anime and Manga

  • Almost any anime with an Unwanted Harem is going to have the leading man be "volunteered" for an unwilling date.
    • Ai Yori Aoshi for example has this happen a few times- this is particularly galling as the leading man is secretly engaged to one of the girls- resulting in her having to smile as the other girls trick him into taking them out- making it a use of this trope for both comedic and dramatic purposes at the same time.
  • Haruhi Suzumiya populates her club with these. It's even Lampshaded as "voluntary arrest" is her term for kidnapping. Yuki, Mikuru, and Kyon all fit the bill.
  • In Full Metal Panic, Kaname volunteers Sousuke to take out the garbage as a way of getting back at Sousuke for shadowing her. The fact that no one else wants to do it helps as well.

 Confused and or scared Mook Who are you?

Sousuke I take out the garbage.

  • This is how the main character of Alien Nine ended up with her job.
  • Matsuda is the go-to guy for this sort of thing in Death Note, from making coffee runs to being bait to halving his lifespan with an excellent chance of dying in two weeks. Much to Light's dismay, he's supplanted on that last. As long as he thinks he's being useful, he's a pretty good sport about it all.
  • This is how the Yes! Pretty Cure 5 team got formed; after Nozomi became Cure Dream, she dragged along the others, already deciding that they were to be Pretty Cure - despite the fact that Rin was scared witless of it all and Karen just didn't want any part of it! Nozomi's determined and it pays off!
  • In High School DxD, someone needs to be the partner for Asia in their three-legged race. Kiryuu Aika then tells Issei that he has a hole on his shirt in the armpit region. Seeing as Issei was still in deep thought, he nonchalantly raises his arm, finds that there's no hole and the realization hits him that he gets volunteered to be Asia's partner.


  • In Asterix the Gaul, the Roman soldiers decide this by a game of Musical Chairs.
  • In Kajko And Kokosz Clumsy gets volunteered by the brigants every time - either everyone else takes a step back or someone kicks him foreward.
  • Naturally, occurs in Dilbert
  • In Popeye one of Wimpy's trademark phrases — that he normally uses after wronging a big strong guy who now has come for revenge — is "You want to fight? All right! Let's You and Him Fight!" Then, you guessed it, Wimpy steps aside and makes way for Popeye, who has to fight the big strong guy.


  • In The Tainted Grimoire, Luso and Villi would unwittingly be roped in as dance partners for Kanin and Adelle when they get Cheney to teach them how to dance.

Films — Live-Action

  • The Dirty Dozen is a sterling example of this.
  • "That's why he's called Dirty Harry."
  • In the film version of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Harry is "volunteered" to approach the hippogriff as his classmates step backwards (although in the book he actually volunteers)
  • Speed: "Sir, Harry volunteers to examine the device."
  • In Reign of Fire, Van Zan does this to the members of Quinn's survivor group so that he would has enough of troops to siege the Dragon-occupied London.
  • Chief, from an early scene in The Wackiest Ship in the Army: "I need one volunteer. (Beat) You. (grabs random sailor and orders him to climb the mast)"
  • Inverted in The Last Chance Detectives video "Legend Of The Desert Bigfoot"; while contemplating on what to do in case the Bigfoot came by, Ben suggests that one of them stay behind to call for help. Mike then says that it's a great idea, then promptly assigns Spence to the duty of staying behind and calling for help, much to Ben's consternation. Made even funnier that the look that Winnie has on her face after that clearly reads 'Nice try, Ben'.
  • Star Trek Generations.

 Chekhov: You, and you. You just became nurses.

  • Played for drama in Sunshine: Mace blames Capa for the ship's solar panels being damaged (because he cast the deciding vote that sent them off course), and so "volunteers" him to go outside and help the captain fix them.
  • Rat Race ended with this trope, portrayed as comeuppance.
  • Mystery Team. Apparently the task of sticking one's hand in a filthy toilet inside a gentleman's club restroom is a job for the Boy Genius.


  • Simon of Cyrene in The Bible, making this Older Than Feudalism.
  • In Poul Anderson's Operation Chaos, the narrator notes that he never got actually asked if he volunteered.
  • Used unusually in The Book Thief. The commander asked for one man who would stay out of battle that day. Nobody can volunteer without being branded a coward, but if you Got Volunteered... (and Hans Hubermann does).
  • Pextel in Stationery Voyagers. The Call was more complex than that, and he was largely ignorant of most of it for a little while. But since he saw no other way, he just accepted it.
  • Discworld's Nobby Nobbs has such an intense fear of this, he once jumped out of a second story window, when the nobles attempted to "volunteer" him to be the ruler of Ankh-Morpork. This is reinforced by the fact that the only 'logical' outcome he sees is that Commander Vimes will, in Nobby's words, "go spare" and behead him for becoming a king (Vimes's ancestor being a notorious regicide).
    • This has happened so often to Rincewind that in The Last Hero he volunteers ("I do not wish to volunteer", followed shortly after by "I'm volunteering. I just don't wish to.") just to get it over with.
    • Inverted in Pyramids when the handmaiden Ptraci refuses to drink poison so she can be interred with the recently deceased king of Djellibebi. ("It's voluntary, isn't it?" "Well, yes... but she won't do it!")
  • In Ciaphas Cain, after a riot gone bad, some soldiers under Cain's command are sentenced to death by "volunteering on the next suicide mission". Cain is satisfied with this judgment (he had maneuvered to avoid an execution that would be disastrous for morale) until he's himself required on a very dangerous mission, meaning he has to take them along instead of more reliable soldiers.
  • Happens in the novel A Ship of the Line. As his ship was undercrewed, Hornblower had exempted sailors from the merchant convoy he was escorting press-ganged in his crew. When the captains of the convoy protested he said his sailors had misunderstood his orders and that he had sent them to search for volunteers, and that he'd check who was a volunteer and who was pressed... And as soon as the convoy captains return to their ships, he sends the signal "All volunteers".

Live-Action TV

  • Band of Brothers sort of subverts this. Maj. Winters asks for volunteers to check out a suspicious house in the forest; although he does "volunteer" two guys, Blithe does volunteer by his own volition, which is even more awesome as he had a nervous breakdown a few scenes before.
    • One could also interpret Blithe's state of mind at that point to be in permanent Got Volunteered. He does not want to be in the war but he does not have a choice. Winters might have asked for volunteers but The War has already volunteered Blithe for the patrol.
  • Ned's Declassified School Survival Guide had an episode called "Guide to Volunteering", in which no voluntary volunteering took place, just school-required community service.
  • In the Mash episode "Edwina", one nurse was so clumsy that all of the men were afraid to go out with her. The other nurses got together and refused to go out with any of the men unless one of them agreed to go on a date with her. The men drew straws and Hawkeye was chosen to "volunteer" for the job.
  • Yet another variation: on Lost, Hurley is looking for someone to help him jump-start the Dharma van. Everyone else walks away, except Jin, who doesn't speak English and has no idea what he just "volunteered" to do. Hurley cheerfully acknowledges this fact.
  • Happened all the time to Oliver on Green Acres. Typical plot: The town's residents would come up with a Zany Scheme, Oliver would rise to protest and get cut off as everybody thanks him for volunteering to lead the scheme.
  • In Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Sisko, O'Brien, Bashir, and Worf's son Alexander are taking part in the Road to Kal'Hyah, the Klingon bachelor party equivalent. When told about the ritual shedding of blood, Worf asks for volunteers. Collectively, Sisko, O'Brien, and Alexander look to each other and step back, leaving Bashir to go first.

 Worf: I did not expect you to be the first, Doctor.

Bashir: *looks at others* Neither did I.

  • Myth Busters Build Team method of choosing a volunteer, Ro-Sham-Bo, generally ends with Tory having two fingers pointed at him.
    • Another method used is for the other two members to say "not it!" before the third even finished explaining the myth.
  • On Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Snyder "volunteers" students to escort trick-or-treaters.

  Xander: Note his interesting take on the word "volunteer".

  • On Drop the Dead Donkey, in the season 2 episode "Baseball", Gus has to volunteer staff members, including Dave, Damien and George to play in a corporate game of baseball. Alex is offended when she isn't volunteered, being a woman.
  • In Veronica Mars, Logan volunteers his father to donate money to a soup kitchen. He does so publicly enough and with grand enough reception that his father can't back out without looking like an ass.
  • In It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, Charlie gets third-party-volunteered so often that the things he's volunteered for are called "Charlie Work" by the other characters. They call it that to the character's face and he still does it.
  • In one episode of Red Dwarf, Rimmer mentions that Lister once put his name on the waiting list for experimental piles surgery.
    • In another episode, they stumble upon their personnel files. Rimmer's says "There's a saying amongst the officers: if a job's worth doing, it's worth doing well. If it's not worth doing, give it to Rimmer'".

Newspaper Comics

  • In one Hagar the Horrible strip. "I have good news and bad news! The good news: I just want volunteers for this mission! The bad news: I need four volunteers." (There are just four guys.)
  • Also in the Beetle Bailey cartoon Cosmo's Naught it happens but even more extreme: Volunteers have to walk the distance of 50 miles. Beetle Bailey, Zero and Cosmo complains how ill they are until Sarge tell them to shut up and that if anyone of the soldiers need to see the doctor they should go. Everyone except Beetle Bailey, Zero and Cosmo immediately run away leaving the three back as the volunteers.

Tabletop Games

  • Paranoia encourages PCs to throw their underlings under the bus this way, while pretending that you're doing them a favor ("Suck-R, go disarm that berserk scrubot, you'll probably get a commendation for it"). If the underling seems devious enough to actually pull it off, then you may need to pile on some complications ("oh, but leave your toolkit here, we wouldn't want it to get damaged").
  • The Flavor Text of the Magic: The Gathering card "Goblin Hero" reads: "To be a hero, you don't have to step forward. Everyone else just has to step back."


  • According to 1776 Thomas Jefferson Got Volunteered to write the Declaration of Independence.


  • One dialogue option in the opening of Mass Effect 2 is Shepard asking the Illusive man if s/he's volunteering or being volunteered. The Illusive Man tells him/her s/he can walk away, but to check out Freedom's Progress first. Shepard wants to take out the Reaper threat too much and no one else is willing to believe and help him/her, so this is more of a case of The Illusive Man knowing Shepard won't not jump at the chance.
  • If you pick Morrigan for Combat by Champion against Loghain in Dragon Age.

  Morrigan: Oh, I shall, shall I? Tis so kind of you to volunteer me.

  • During a mission briefing in Wing Commander, Spirit volunteers herself and Maverick for a mission.
  • While you were out adventuring in the Kingdom of Loathing, your guild had a meeting, and decided that Gorgolok/Stella/Spaghetti Elemental/Lumpy/Spirit of New Wave/Lopez is your Nemesis, so you Got Volunteered for the single longest spanning quest in the game.
    • In an interesting twist, you do have a chance to refuse the call. It's an optional quest, in that you don't need to complete it to finish the game, so you can completely ignore it without affecting the storyline of the game.
  • The story to Magi Nation kicks off when protagonist Foney BonesTony Jones gets 'volunteered' to go spelunking for a cave treasure, by two guys who tried and failed to foist the task upon one of their younger brothers.
  • In the first Fallout, one of the premade player characters has as his back story that he was simply the only one dumb enough to leave the vault (the other two characters were ones who Jumped At the Call).
  • In Portal 2's companion material, protagonist Chell originally wasn't even intended to be a test subject due to her psychological profile indicating near-pathological tenacity, but a paranoid-schizophrenic researcher who survived GLaDOS' purge altered her records to get her into the testing program. The rest is history.
    • Whealtey's done this too. In the final battle, he boasts that Chell isn't the first test subject he broke out of Cryo-Sleep and sent off to get a portal gun. Just the first to survive. There's a chance he's lying given the circumstances, though.
  • In Quest for Glory I, none of the fairies want to give the hero any fairy dust, so they make a fairy named Mikey do it.


  • Robin in Books Don't Work Heregets "volunteered" in the first page and has yet to be given the chance to back out.
  • Susan and Nanase from El Goonish Shive (especially Susan) during their trip to Paris to kill an aberration.
    • In one of the greatest What the Hell, Hero? moments in history, they got two teenagers to kill someone when it would be easier and faster for them to go to the authorities, more reliable and wouldn't have put two girls in the first year of high school in mortal danger. To summarize how much of a jackass the Immortals where being, see here
  • In Wapsi Square, Bud got volunteered to recover an artifact from Ireland.
  • When Spoorflix ask Vexxarr why he thinks Spoorflix's people didn't expect him to succeed, he responds with "Let's say I know a thing or two about being volunteered for one-way missions."
  • In this strip of Schlock Mercenary, company lawyer Massey Reynstein demonstrates a knowledge of how to tackle the financial end of a mission, and is promptly volunteered to take care of it since everyone else in the company prefers a more brute-force approach.
  • In Red String, Miharu's cousin Karen volunteers Miharu to help at the family restaurant, causing Miharu to miss a date.

Web Originals

  • In Thalias Musings, this happens to Apollo when he tries to get Thalia out of watching eternal adolescent Eros for the day. (She owed Hephaestus a favor.) Hephaestus thinks Apollo is volunteering to help. Apollo is too nice to refuse.
  • Zack is only involved with Tom's show. because the camera equipment belongs to his father and Zack's dad made Tom let him tag along, and Tom put him to work.
  • Done several times in AH Dot Com the Series, usually with perennial Butt Monkeys Luakel or Michael as the "volunteer".

Western Animation

  • In the Ren and Stimpy episode "Royal Canadian Kilted Yaksmen", the Yaksmen chief gives an enthusiastic Rousing Speech in order to get volunteers for their latest dangerous mission. Stimpy is filled with such patriotic fervor that he not only volunteers himself, but Ren, who wanted no part of it.
  • The "everyone steps backward" variant happened in Cars when Sheriff asks for volunteers to be McQueen's attorney. Mater, the one left out, gladly accepts.
  • The "everyone steps backward" variant also happened in the cartoon Northwest Hounded Police where every member of the mounted police stand back, except for Sgt. McPoodle, alias Droopy, who then has to go capture the villain.
  • The Elephants in Disney's The Jungle Book try the "step backwards" method, but they all end up volunteered.
  • Saw the "step backwards" method used and played with in one Popeye cartoon. And used in one Tom and Jerry, where Spike is a kind of drill sargeant for poor Tom.
  • Disney's Snow White and The Seven Dwarfs: The Dwarfs need someone to go upstairs and check for intruders. They all turn to Dopey, who looks over his shoulder before realizing he's the one being volunteered.
  • Mulan features the "stepping back" variant when Yao gets "volunteered" to retrieve the arrow shot into the top of the post by Shang.
    • Though, that one may have had something to do with Shang calling Yao's name, and nocking an arrow. When the guy in charge points an arrow in your general direction, it's generally a good idea to try and remove yourself from the field of fire.
  • The other ponies do this to Minty in A Charming Birthday.
  • In one episode of The Adventures Of Super Mario Bros.3, King Koopa has already decided which Koopalings will take part in his latest scheme, and orders them to step forward. What happens is that the rest of the Koopalings step back, while the 'volunteers' remain perfectly still.
  • Happens in the Scooby Doo movies, guest-starring the Harlem Globetrotters. Whenever an unpleasant task is needed to be done, the lead Globetrotter would trick the bald one into making an implicating gesture, such as asking if he would like to go ("Who, me?"), or asking if he had grown hair (Raises hand to feel head).

 "You're a natural-born hero."

"I'm a natural-born sucker!"

  • In The Simpsons episode "New Kids on the Blecch", 'N Sync sign one of their number up to join the navy without his knowledge.
  • When the South Park kids are desperately trying to find a TV in town they can watch, Cartman tries to get a bar to let them stay with "Butters will give handjobs in the corner for a dollar!" Earlier in the same episode, Butters was volunteered to go to the store for tampons and risk missing the trailer, the excuse being a game called "if your name is Butters you have to go."
    • In another episode, Cartman volunteers Butters as a sacrifice to NAMBLA so the other boys can escape.(This sort of thing happens to Butters on a fairly regular basis.)
  • On Ed, Edd 'n' Eddy, the Eds need to dig something up from underneath the Kanker's trailer. Edd and Eddy take one look at how disgusting it is before deciding to make Ed dig.
  • The "stepping back" variant was used in an episode of Histeria!, with Loud as the "volunteer".
  • In an episode of Jackie Chan Adventures, after Tohru is picked as The Chosen One, the monks state that a great warrior will come forward to protect him until he is awakened. Jade and Uncle push Jackie forward.
  • In Total Drama World Tour, Team Victory does this to DJ for a very unpleasant pinball challenge.
    • Later, Courtney, Heather, and Sierra do this to Gwen, and Owen and Noah do this to Tyler to have them strip down guards.
    • Gwen and Courtney then do this Heather for the torture rack challenge.

Real Life

  • Fun Fact: in Dutch there is an actual expression for this concept: Chinese Volunteer. What Do You Mean It's Not Politically Correct?
    • Well, the Dutch will be Dutch.
    • In the US military, it's "being volun-told."
    • "Volun-told" is also current slang in the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, and is spreading to Canadians in civilian life.
  • A saying in the US Army goes something like, "Never be first, never be last, and never, ever volunteer for anything."
    • Less pretty and more succinct is the version that simply goes "God hates volunteers."
  • What does "NAVY" stand for in the US? Never Again Volunteer Yourself.
  • In the Soviet Union, there was a saying, "Collectivization is a voluntary affair" (original full version: "collectivization is a voluntary affair, choose to opt in or get shot"), which was in essence used as a trope name back before anyone had ever heard of tropes. In fact, so many assignments that were de jure voluntary were de facto obligatory, to the point of inspiring tongue-in-cheek oxymoronic terms like "voluntary obligation".
  • In the Cadet Corps, a call for volunteers means everyone has to raise their hands. The "volunteers" are consequently picked at random (that or they're the last ones to raise their hands).
  • Supposedly George Washington wrote letters to his wife talking about how he didn't want to lead the Continental Army and how he felt completely inadequate to the task after he Got Volunteered. Of course, he never mentioned how he turned up at the meetings in full uniform every single day.
  • C'mon. You know you've seen this first hand. We know.