“Act Your Wage” Trend Continues to Ravage Corporate America

By: Ben Campbell | Published: Jan 27, 2024

A new trend is emerging in the workplace, coined “act your wage.” Inspired by the classic phrase “act your age,” this movement, gaining traction on platforms like TikTok, encourages employees to align their work efforts with their compensation.

The trend suggests that instead of exceeding job expectations, workers should focus on fulfilling just the basic requirements of their roles.

A TikTok Influencer's Perspective

Sarai Soto, a 30-year-old content creator on TikTok, has become a prominent voice in this movement. With over 87.9 million likes, Soto’s videos often depict the challenges of modern workplaces.

A split-screen image featuring the same woman in two different expressions. On the left, she smiles and speaks animatedly, dressed in a grey turtleneck, with the caption 'POV: Veronica teaches the office how to "act their wage."' On the right, she exhibits a skeptical expression, furrowing her brow and biting a pencil, under the same caption

Source: saraisthreads/TikTok

She advocates for a balance between work and compensation, stating, “Always remember that the amount that you’re getting paid does reflect the amount of work that you put in.”


The Concept of Work-Life Balance in the Spotlight

In her TikTok portrayals, Soto’s character, Veronica, often interacts with an imaginary manager, Susan.

A split-screen image shows a woman in two different scenarios. On the left, she is holding a clipboard, looking surprised with wide eyes and a slight smile, with the caption 'POV: Your boss asks you to do something off the clock.' On the right, she holds a red tumbler with a straw and a book with a disgruntled expression

Source: saraisthreads/TikTok

Veronica refuses to work overtime or outside of her contracted hours, emphasizing the importance of personal time and adherence to her work schedule.

Understanding the Wage-Effort Equation

The underlying message of the “act your wage” trend is straightforward: the effort employees put into their jobs should correspond to their wages.

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Sarai Soto captures this succinctly, telling Insider, “If a company is paying you, let’s say minimum wage, you’re gonna put in minimum effort.”

Diverse Opinions on Workplace Effort

However, not everyone agrees with this philosophy. Jack Delosa, founder of The Entourage, criticizes the trend, suggesting it could hinder personal growth.

A wide-angle view of a busy office space during working hours. Multiple employees are seen focused on their computer screens, surrounded by typical office equipment and personal items

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Speaking to Refinery29, he advises, “Acting your wage is a trend for people who want to go nowhere, fast.” Delosa’s perspective highlights a divide in opinions on workplace effort and ambition.

A Manager's View: Wendy Syfret's Experiences

Wendy Syfret, author of The Sunny Nihilist, shares her experiences with Refinery29 about staff negotiating pay for additional responsibilities.

A portrait of Wendy Syfret in a restaurant setting, she has her head resting on one hand and smiles slightly

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She recounts, “I’ve asked [staff] to do stuff and they’ve respectfully said to me, ‘I’d love to do that but that pushes me into another pay bracket, [so] I’m going to need an extra ten thousand to do that.” Syfret’s experiences shed light on the practical implications of the “act your wage” trend in managerial contexts.


Blue-Collar Workers and the Trend

The trend isn’t confined to white-collar jobs; it’s also visible among blue-collar workers on TikTok.

The photo captures the upward view of several construction workers climbing an orange ladder. They are all wearing blue uniforms and yellow safety helmets with names and company logos on them

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These workers, while competent and rule-abiding, are not willing to extend themselves beyond their job descriptions.


Challenging the Perception of 'Minimum Effort'

In an article for Refinery29, Wendy Syfret offers a different perspective on what constitutes minimum effort at work.

A candid photo of four office colleagues collaborating around a wooden table. Three individuals stand closely together, looking at a laptop screen, which is being operated by the fourth person, a seated woman

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She believes that fulfilling a job description should not be seen as doing the bare minimum. This view challenges the traditional expectation that employees should consistently go above and beyond their defined roles.


Rejecting the Culture of Overwork

In this article, Syfret also expresses her disapproval of the culture that expects workers to aim for hypothetical future rewards.

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She advocates for immediate and fair compensation, stating, “I don’t like the idea of working for a hypothetical reward; this idea that if I do all this stuff now, maybe I’ll get paid for it later.”


Industry Perspectives on "Acting Your Wage"

The concept of “acting your wage” has been met with mixed reactions from industry experts. Forbes’ senior contributor Jack Kelly describes it as a form of slacking or coasting.

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In contrast, Syfret argues for the importance of fulfilling one’s assigned tasks without providing free labor.


Potential Impact on Salary Transparency

This movement could lead to broader discussions about pay transparency in the workplace.

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By understanding what their colleagues earn, employees might be better equipped to negotiate their salaries and workload. This could lead to a more equitable work environment where employees are paid fairly for their efforts.


The Ongoing Debate Around Work and Compensation

The “act your wage” trend has sparked a significant debate about workplace expectations and employee compensation.

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While it encourages workers to align their efforts with their pay, it also raises questions about ambition, career growth, and the value of work. As this trend continues to evolve, it highlights the complex relationship between work and compensation in the modern labor market.