Quiet Quitting Has Officially Passed The Baton To 'Act Your Wage'

Newsflash: The professional world your parents and grandparents created no longer exists. With remote work becoming the norm, historically high inflation still on the rise, and COVID-19 shake-ups, working life today requires a new approach. One trend that's grown in recent years is "quiet quitting," where employees stop going above and beyond at work. And it's not only slackers that are embracing it — according to a 2022 Gallup survey, at least half of working Americans have become quiet quitters.


Letting go of the hustle and grind attitude has spawned other trends, too, like "Bare Minimum Mondays" and the "act your wage" movement. Acting your wage was a phrase first used by financial experts like Dave Ramsey to urge people against spending beyond their means. The new version, however, is all about setting boundaries at work and protecting yourself against overly demanding managers. Here's what it means to act your wage — and whether the trend is actually worth copying.

How to act your wage at work

If you've ever put in the bare minimum at a minimum wage job, you're already familiar with the concept of acting your wage. Now, we have social media to thank for giving it a perfectly fitting name. TikToker Sarai Marie Soto was one of the first to popularize the term "act your wage" using a fictional character named Veronica. In one video, Veronica acts her wage by refusing to put in overtime hours, communicate with her boss during vacation, or take on an unreasonable workload. Though the TikTok clips are humorous, they make a serious point: Employees shouldn't overwork while getting underpaid.


Soto explained the approach to Insider, saying, "If you're acting your wage, that means that the amount of labor that you're putting in reflects the amount that you're getting paid. So you're not going to go above and beyond and do the job of two to three people and do all this extra work if you're really not even making a livable wage." Low pay, not laziness, is what's driving the shift. In fact, a 2022 survey by Gartner found that only 32% of employees believe their pay is fair.

The benefits of acting your wage

Work stress is extremely common: A whopping 62% of respondents in a ComPsych survey (via Visually) report having out-of-control stress levels in the workplace, and the most common cause is a heavy workload. Acting your wage can be a way to scale back and reject a culture that fuels burnout.


Rosie McCarthy, a career coach, sees the mental and emotional benefits of the trend. "[Young people who act their wage] know when a manager is toxic or gaslighting them and they are taking a huge stance against pushing themselves into the burnout that has affected so many Millennials," she explained to PopSugar. "While some people write it off as young people being spoilt or lazy, I see it as young people taking what power they can back in a world where they are feeling powerless."

Another practical perk of acting your wage is the potential to earn more money. If you put in the minimum hours and energy demanded by your job — never exceeding what's required — you can still create space in your schedule for a lucrative side hustle to make up for what your salary lacks. But if you overexert yourself at your day job, only to earn the same low wage, it's less likely you'll have the stamina left for other money-making projects.


Some experts warn against acting your wage

Keep your job, earn whatever money you were going to earn anyway, and dodge burnout at the same time ... It sounds ideal, but not everyone agrees with the act your wage movement. "Acting your wage is a trend for people who want to go nowhere, fast. You need to act the wage you want ... If you would rather be in a role that prioritizes balance and lifestyle, then you need to find a culture that's conducive to that," Jack Delosa, the founder of business coaching provider The Entourage, remarked to Refinery29. "But don't sit in a high-performance small business requesting career development and progression, and then complain about the amount of work that comes with it."


Jack Kelly, a CEO and business expert, agrees. In a Forbes article, he argued that acting your wage keeps you stuck in the same position, which will eventually lead to friction with management (and, possibly, getting fired) or dead-end job hopping. And when you earn a reputation for slacking off, you'll be the last to earn big promotions and other rewards at work.

Alternatives to the trend

Acting your wage may work in some situations, but if it doesn't fly in your job, or if doubling down on boundaries doesn't make you feel any better in the end, another solution may be in order. One option is to negotiate for a higher salary, especially if you believe you're being underpaid. Check postings for jobs similar to yours or search websites like Glassdoor and Payscale to determine a fair wage for your work. Then, ask your manager for a raise — though do be prepared to take on extra responsibilities as needed.


If you're acting your wage to cope with a job that doesn't fit your values, it might be time to polish your resume and apply to other positions — or even explore a brand new career path. "When we choose work that is aligned with our values and purpose, and that is intrinsically motivated, we're working for more than a paycheck," Jenn Lim, an executive coach and workplace expert, shared with Reader's Digest. "We're working towards something more meaningful and greater than ourselves; we're acting our purpose, not just our wage."