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Laura Whaley, known for her How to Professionally Say video series on TikTok and Instagram, in her Burlington, Ont., office on June 29.Nick Iwanyshyn/The Globe and Mail

Have you ever wanted to tell a colleague to do their job so you don’t have to? What about turning down yet another unnecessary meeting request or an ask from your boss that’s above your paygrade? There’s a lot we would say to our co-workers if we knew how to share our feelings without losing our job or team-player status.

Laura Whaley, a 28-year-old IT consultant, social-media star and mental-health advocate, says even business school didn’t cover the basics of communicating to colleagues professionally, so she taught herself – and brought it to the masses.

Since the fall of 2020, Ms. Whaley has garnered millions of followers on both TikTok and Instagram by filming chats with her work bestie who helps her interpret her feelings and frustrations about her other colleagues into more palatable responses.

“I have this strange ability to translate the most obscure things that go through your mind during the day and make them sound corporate, professional and a little passive aggressive,” says Ms. Whaley, over a Zoom chat in the sunlit, plant-filled office of her Burlington, Ont., home where she films the series. “That’s how this idea was born. I wanted it to be funny and relatable about what people want to say if they could be honest, and actually get value out of the videos.”

What started out as just wanting to entertain herself at the start of the pandemic quickly turned into legitimate advocacy for young workers trying to navigate the corporate world during a fraught and uncertain time.

A recent video about how to respectfully tell your boss that a surge in gas prices means you won’t be driving to the office every day has been viewed more than six million times.

Nearly that many people have also watched a video about how to tactfully respond to a colleague who bombards you with e-mails. (Hint: Don’t say “Leave me alone!”)

Ms. Whaley has a treasure chest of quips. Instead of “I told you so and now this is your problem,” she uses the more polished “I did previously note that this was a likely outcome. How do you plan to resolve this?” Rather than “Couldn’t care less,” she suggests “I will defer to your judgment on this as I am not passionate either way and I trust your expertise.”

With more than two million followers on TikTok alone, Ms. Whaley says most of her ideas come from the hundreds of messages she gets every day about issues people in her community are struggling with. Sometimes followers will even send screenshots of e-mail exchanges where a variation of one of her comebacks worked.

Debby Carreau is chief executive officer of Inspired HR and Inspired Workplace, a human-resources consultancy firm with offices in Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton and Toronto. She says it’s not surprising that Ms. Whaley’s message of building boundaries and self-care in the workplace has resonated in the midst of endemic occupational burnout and pandemic-induced resignations.

“A lot of people resigning are citing mental-health reasons and the work environment not serving them well,” says Ms. Carreau. “Laura’s use of humour takes stressful situations and demonstrates they can be manageable.”

Since the fall of 2020, Ms. Whaley has garnered millions of followers on both TikTok and Instagram.Nick Iwanyshyn/The Globe and Mail

While it used to be taboo to talk about work life on social media, Ms. Carreau notes there’s been a significant increase in workplace dialogue and issues playing out on the platforms.

Earlier this year, “Quit-Toks” gave rise to people recording themselves quitting their jobs in extremely public ways such as broadcasting their resignation over the PA system at a grocery store or secretly recording an animated resignation conversation in the boss’s office. On Twitter in recent months, the trending #iquitmyjob is inspiring people to talk about their resignations or to literally quit online.

“As attention grabbing as these may be, I don’t recommend taking this approach because it could really hurt a person’s career long term or even get them in legal trouble,” Ms. Carreau says, asking the obvious: Do you really want a prospective employer to see that? Companies often do social-media searches, so she cautions against posting something in the heat of the moment that you can’t take back.

Ms. Carreau also doesn’t recommend using all of Ms. Whaley’s professional verbiage verbatim. “If you want to progress in your career, no good will come from being condescending, sarcastic, pushing workplace flexibility rules or generally being difficult,” she says. Still, “There is a way to reframe almost any workplace issue with different language.”

Ms. Whaley says her zingers are meant to serve as eye-opening entertainment, not serious career advice. But it’s still important to laugh about truly toxic workplace dynamics.

“Sometimes just knowing your struggles at work aren’t unique is enough to help some people who are experiencing a difficult work situation,” says Ms. Carreau. “For others, seeing Laura’s posts reinforces that their employer’s expectations are not acceptable and may give them the confidence to address the issues in a constructive way without resigning.”

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