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“Act Your Wage” and How It Will Help Your Company Culture

4 minute read


You probably know what “quiet quitting”, “mental health” and “burnout” is all about – hint they are all related. I recently heard about “Act Your Wage” and found it surprisingly helpful; especially for those of you who struggle with absolutes, (you know who you are, it’s all or nothing for you.)

Even though we have been experiencing “mental health” and “burnout” for decades, it gained prominence during the pandemic, when we realised that most of us were experiencing similar challenges.



As humans, we have an instinctive need to belong and to be connected. That is why we fear stepping out of line, just in case we get kicked out of the hive, so to speak, and then we have to fend for ourselves.

So, when celebrities started stepping out and admitting that they were experiencing mental health issues, the rest of the world waited with bated breath to see if they will be kicked out of the “Hive” for speaking out, and when they saw that they were applauded for it, the world felt safe enough to come out and speak about their shared challenges.

Burnout on the other hand is caused by unrealistic expectations made by employers, team leaders, colleagues and even yourself.

This is where “Act Your Wage” comes in and says: “Hold on, I am not being paid enough to care this much,” and only work the hours outlined in the contract so that they can go home and enjoy their lives. It is about putting up boundaries and protecting their mental health by saying no in a gentler way.

“Act Your Wage” could be a useful tool for people pleasers to trial for a while, (those of you who struggle to say no or who don’t put up boundaries when too much is expected from you.)

Many of you struggle to know your worth, but once expectations are so high that you start feeling stressed and anxious about going to work, this could be a useful tool to put your situation into perspective.



Mary was hired to be the receptionist. She is good at her job and well-liked by her colleagues. But then staff go on leave or resign, and the team leader asks Mary to step in and do work outside of her scope of expertise. Mary enjoys a challenge and likes her boss, and she agrees.

After a few months, Mary is now a receptionist/janitor/bookkeeper and then her boss gets annoyed if she is not on the phone or the bins are full, or the numbers don’t match. The expectations are unrealistic and unmet, and Mary reverts to “Act your Wage” to gently let them know that she is only paid to be a receptionist. This is Mary's integrity with herself, to protect her and keep her safe and sane.

This is where an emotionally intelligent team leader would recognise that expectations were unrealistic and that while Mary enjoys a challenge, she was not supported sufficiently in the process, (not receiving a raise, training, or the recognition she deserves).

When the right leader is in a position where their strengths are utilised, they will be more inclined to want to get the best out of their team too.

As much as it is important to look after our team members, we need to get the foundations right first.

  1. Is the team leader a good fit?
  2. Does he/she have the required strengths to make great decisions with clarity and commitment?
  3. Does the team leader have the experience, training or support needed to fulfil a challenging role?
  4. Do they have the confidence to reflect and become more self-aware?
  5. Do they have the courage to change what is needed to be done, without the ego poking its ugly head out?

If you can say in all honesty that the team leader has all of the above, then chances are great that he/she is a great team leader and will be able to lead their teams through any storm.

If the answer is no, then perhaps all they need is more focused training to help them on their journey to success.

It always starts at the top, and if the leadership is not supportive of growth and caring for their team members, then you might find them retaliating with “Act Your Wage” syndrome.

This is their gentle way of respecting themselves enough, by putting their needs first and saying no.

Long term, “Act Your Wage” is not sustainable, but while team members find their voice and their true worth, it can help them to put up boundaries to protect themselves from being overwhelmed and even burnout, while the team leaders level up.


About the Author: 

Lynn Erasmus is a multi-award-winning entrepreneur and an authority on company culture. She connects leaders with their teams, by helping them understand their core values, vision and team strengths and then bringing them together to achieve their shared goals.

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