In a TikTok that has garnered more than 12 million views, Sarai Marie, a Florida-based content creator, plays both a young office drone named Veronica and her humorless boss Susan.
“Hey Veronica, I’m going to have you take this home and work on it tonight,” Susan says, handing over a pile of papers.
“Respectfully Susan, I’d rather spend time with my family,” Veronica replies, slurping on an iced coffee from Starbucks.
Veronica goes on to decline a 6:30 p.m. Zoom meeting, laughs off the idea of answering calls on her vacation and explains that she can only do the work of one, not two, people. Then she loudly declares that it’s 5 o’clock and time to go home, packing up her things and saying acerbically “Alright, thank you, byeeeee.”
The video is tagged #ActYourWage, a hashtag that has amassed 37.6M views and counting on TikTok. It’s part of a movement among young workers to only do what they’re paid for — and no more — and to urge their co-workers to do the same. Proponents of “Act Your Wage” see it as a way of setting firm, healthy boundaries in the workplace, but some experts warn that the new workplace attitude may be hurting employees in the long run.
“Nobody wants to get the reputation for being somebody who’s not going to go the extra mile when it’s needed,” David Bradshaw, vice president of North Star, a boutique human resources strategies company, told The Post. “At the end of the day, if you want to get ahead and [have] an optimal career, you have to put the effort in. There’s no way of getting around that.”
Jareen Imam, a New York-based content creator, would disagree. In a viral TikTok skit with 17,500 views, she simulates a conversation with a boss saying that “It’s great visibility” for a junior employee to consistently stay late to work on a big project, even if she’s only making $40,000.
Imam shuts down that line of thinking, saying, “Visibility doesn’t pay the bills. If you want people to work hard you just have to pay them better.”
In another viral TikTok video, @maddiemacho0o, a self-proclaimed “Career Finesser” greets viewers with the caption: “Welcome to the side of TikTok where we act our wage, leave jobs for more money with no guilt, set healthy boundaries at work and always have our resume updated just in case.”
Acting your wage might sound similar to quiet quitting, which became the biggest buzzword in the office as summer came to an end, but there is a fine line between the two movements.
“Motivation is the bridge between the two, but they’re still two separate and very different constructs,” Meisha-ann Martin, head of people analytics at the software company Workhuman, told The Post.
In short, quiet quitters are doing the bare minimum and trying to get away with it, while the act your wagers are doing exactly what they’re paid to do — not more and not less.
But like quiet quitting, acting your wage clearly has its roots in the pandemic, working from home and changing attitudes about work.
“We’ve all reevaluated our life circumstances in lots of different ways throughout the pandemic,” said Bradshaw.
Martin believes companies should work to address the employee complaints instead of firing or letting people go.
“There is this tension between what people versus businesses think they need, [but] it’s a fake dichotomy,” she said. “If people get what they need, organizations will thrive, but we’re still kind of stuck.”