- On TikTok, a work-life practice called “Act Your Wage” has recently picked up steam.
- Creators say the term refers to doing the minimum required to keep your job — even if you love it.
- TikTokers told Insider they think the trend is a more positive version of “quiet quitting.”
“Look, I’ve got other tables that I need to help,” is not something most people expect to hear from their server when disputing a restaurant bill, but it’s what one TikToker said in a sketch she acted out to demonstrate a new work concept that’s picking up steam online.
In her video, Louise Douglas re-enacted her interpretation of “Act Your Wage,” a term used to describe doing the core requirements of your role without going above and beyond to please your employer or clients. In Douglas’ sketch, this meant not rushing to deal with an unnecessarily hostile customer when working in hospitality.
Videos using the hashtag #ActYourWage currently have 63.3 million views on TikTok.
The phrase is one of a number of increasingly trendy buzzwords that have been used to describe changing attitudes to the workplace in recent years, alongside “quiet quitting” and “antiwork.”
TikTokers who have been posting about what it means to act your wage told Insider they think the growing trend provides an alternative way to avoid workplace exploitation that does not necessarily involve leaving your job.
While “quiet quitting,” a term that has also been used to describe doing the bare minimum at work, had a relatively short-lived run of popularity on social media, TikTokers who promote “Act Your Wage” say the concept could potentially have greater and more lasting success without the negative connotations.
‘Act Your Wage’ has been picking up steam in tandem with the fading popularity of ‘quiet quitting’
The concept of “quiet quitting” blew up on TikTok after it was used by career coach Brian Creely who, in a video posted in March, showed an Insider article written by senior correspondent Aki Ito.
The headline read, “Fed up with long hours, many employees have quietly decided to take it easy at work rather than quit their jobs.” Creely described quiet quitting as “kicking back and taking it easy,” or even as being “lazy” at work.
As the term blew up, it became primarily associated with young people, feeding into the stigma that younger workers are less hard-working than older generations, leading Gen Z TikTokers to turn against it.
Enter “Act Yout Wage.”
It appears that the term first went viral in 2020, when TikToker Stephanie Anne used it to talk about her work life.
“Sometimes I have to remind myself to act my wage. Like, if I’ve been doing too much at work, I’ll have to be like, Stephanie, go sit in the bathroom and scroll on your phone for 25 minutes,” she said in the video, adding, “they only pay you $7.25 an hour.” The audio blew up, and has since been used in hundreds of videos.
In recent months, videos using the hashtag #ActYourWage have re-entered the TikTok zeitgeist, receiving millions of views.
Unlike other similar terms, creators say ‘Act Your Wage’ is not about hating your job
Maddie Machado, a career coach who posts advice about acting your wage on TikTok, said there is a subtle difference between “Act Your Wage” and quiet quitting that makes the former a more appealing choice for people who do not want to leave their jobs.
For Machado, most people who admit to quiet quitting on TikTok say they are doing it because they are unhappy with their job or are hoping for a new one, but “Act Your Wage” applies to those happy with their role who want to avoid burning out.
Machado said the connotations of “Act Your Wage” are more positive, and unlike in Creely’s original “quiet quitting” video, it does not encourage people to be “lazy.”
“I’m not telling you not to do your job and I’m not telling you to do a bad job,” she said, adding, “Not everybody wants to get promoted. Not everyone wants to get raises, and the people who act their wage are doing their job and understanding that they don’t need to go above and beyond,” she said.
Machado says she prefers to think of “Act Your Wage” as not related to the antiwork movement, “Because we still want and need to work to get money.”
Jason Matthews, a TikToker who posts comedy skits about what it looks like to act your wage, concurred that the concept of acting your wage puts a more positive spin on challenging working norms.
He said that people tend to talk about “quiet quitting” as a response to a “toxic work environment,” when a person in a workplace is “not wanting to be there” anymore, but “Act Your Wage” is used more in the context of “protecting your mentality and setting boundaries at work so you can have a life afterward.”
The popularity of “Act Your Wage” represents a broader shift in attitudes to work across the labor force
Matthews, 39, told Insider that while quiet quitting became associated with young people and was seen as a Gen Z TikTok trend, he hopes to prove that “Act Your Wage” is something that people of all ages and classes can do to prevent workplace burnout.
In many of his comedy TikToks, Matthews plays a character called “Jeffery” who is in his 60s and works in a factory. The character has “been working there for so long” that he is no longer interested in taking on extra work, Matthews said.
Matthews told Insider he thinks that acting your wage can appeal to workers of all ages because wages are rising at a much slower rate than inflation — and that affects everyone.
“The price of everything is not being reflected in wages,” said Matthews, adding he hopes that “Act Your Wage” will only become more popular on social media as a response to inflation and low pay.
“If you’re earning minimum wage, then you’re going to put in minimum effort,” he said.
Machado told Insider she wants to use her position as a career coach to keep encouraging people to act their wage instead of taking on more work and responsibility.
“Growing up, everybody told us that we had to go above and beyond to have the highest GPA at school, and to get promoted at work and get raises. But we’re now learning that that might not actually get you a raise,” she said.
She continued, “It’s about giving people permission to not go above and beyond and that it’s OK if life is primary and work is secondary.”
For more stories like this, check out coverage from Insider’s Digital Culture team here.