'Do the minimum' | Worker goes viral by clocking out at precisely 5pm after pay rise rejection

Worker goes viral by clocking out at precisely 5pm after pay rise rejection

In the middle of a cost-of-living crisis, and evolving opinions of the once-popular 'hustle culture', it’s no surprise that employees will feel discontent over how much buck they’re getting for their bang, so to speak.

In today’s candidate-led talent market, there are so many ways an employee might react when their long hours of extra hustle go either unnoticed or unrewarded. 

Quiet quitting and leaving for new roles are the most obvious reactions in these situations, but one worker’s simple action of clocking out precisely at 5pm - after being denied a pay rise - has been sparking conversations online.

A viral TikTok video shared by user @culturekidsgroup shows an employee leaving their desk as soon as the clock strikes 5pm. 

The text overlay on the short clip reads: "When your boss denies your raise request, so you start taking the 9-5 seriously." 

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The worker is seen waiting for the clock to tick over from 4.59pm, then promptly closes their laptop and heads for the exit. An excerpt of Taylor Swift's hit track "Karma" plays during the clip, reinforcing the idea that the employee is claiming some form of justice for their lack of pay rise.

The clip, which has been viewed millions of times, struck a chord with many commenters. 

"Always get there at 8:58, always exit at 5, no exceptions and always do the minimum target required”, one user said. 

Another TikToker, who claimed to be in a senior management role, said: “...I actually encourage people to take 9-5 seriously. I had to kick people out of the office a couple of times." 

Another comment explained the rationale behind the worker’s actions. "When you don't feel appreciated, that really changes how you work. You want to do the bare minimum, but they hate that and now they want to fire you” they said.

Traditionally known as ‘working to rule’, today the act of fulfilling no more than your job description (no staying late, no starting early, no working through lunch) has been popularised as ‘acting your wage’.

And a growing number of workers are contemplating how much effort they’re putting in, versus how much reward they’re getting back. 

More than workload, it’s attitude and effort

Beyond workload, this trend tells us some important things about how employee attitudes are changing in the workplace.

What may seem like aeons ago, the UK work economy was once heavily geared towards employers, unemployment levels were extremely high, and workers were seemingly more ‘desperate’ for work than they are now. Because there were so many unemployed workers in the competitive jobs market, employers knew they could replace workers easily if needed.

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This fueled a ‘hustle culture’ mentality whereby employees would go above and beyond at work, often performing tasks outside of their job role, to add value to their organisation and excel their career. Of course, this still exists to some extent. But as unemployment levels dwindled, skills gaps increased, and employee wellbeing became a focal point across business – largely in response to the pandemic – workers became more focused on what they could do for themselves over what they could do for their employer.

Workers seeing their value

As a result of these changing factors, workers started to realise they are an integral part of a business, giving them importance and a say in how their organisation is run, how much work they can handle, and what their expectations are of their firm. Ultimately, employees started to recognise their value as workers, but also as humans, putting an emphasis on their health and overall wellbeing.

More than recognising their value, workers have felt more empowered to challenge employers when they feel their salaries, or benefits associated with their role, don’t align with the value of their work. This has been most notably characterised by the large swaths of striking workers, most of them protesting for increased pay, across a myriad of both public and private industries.

Isn’t it all subjective?

The average UK wage is £30,000 a year. For some workers, having this salary is a luxury. For others, it allows them to live a relatively comfortable life. And for some, it’s simply not enough. The way workers perceive wages against their own expectations is completely subjective. In relation to ‘acting your wage’, if one worker feels this is a high wage for them, they are more likely to put in more effort, whereas an employee dissatisfied with this amount is likely to put in less effort.

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What workers perceive to be ‘too much’ work is also subjective, this indicates that it’s not down to salaries itself that causes the ‘act your wage’ mentality, but more to do with an employee’s individualistic perceptions about their own self-worth .i.e a worker with feelings of high self-worth is more likely to ‘act their wage’ instead of overcompensating.

Employees ‘acting their wage’ is a sign of the times. In a job market characterised by skills gaps, high levels of employment, and low retention rates, this employee-driven market has empowered workers to recognise their value as integral to a business’ success.

In an age of wellbeing, employees are done with being overworked. Instead of working late or going above and beyond to prove their worth to managers, workers are prioritising their own needs, and are only putting the amount of effort they feel equates to their salary. As an act of self-preservation, these individuals are decreasing the likelihood of them burning out. But with spectators saying economic strain will cause a marked shift in the employee-driven jobs market, it’s uncertain if this mentality is here to stay.

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