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In 2021, after submitting an early master’s degree assignment, my writing mentor pushed back over a word choice I used to describe some erstwhile co-workers. Lazy, he wrote to me, was “mean and counterproductive.” He said if he overheard me call a fellow employee lazy, whether as a co-worker or a customer, he would take me to task. When I think back to the spirited debate that followed, I wish we’d had a crystal ball. Two years later, workers (not limited by gender) proudly self-identify as having “lazy girl jobs.”

The term, which originates from a TikTok content creator, denotes a job which, though well-paid (a US$60,000 to US$80,000 ideal salary is frequently cited), is not particularly strenuous and offers a high degree of work-life balance.

A lazy girl job is not lazy in the classical sense, but in contrast to its odd couple roommate – the hustling “girl boss” archetype of the 2010s. A lazy girl might work a nine-to-five office manager gig at a small company where she can pad her lunch breaks, while a girl boss puts in 80 hours weekly launching a startup or ascending the executive track at a major corporation.

Laziness is also in relation to other more laborious or time-consuming jobs. Some boosters profiled in the press have portrayed such career moves as lowering their income yet helping them reclaim their nights and weekends from a merciless career grind.

The appeal is so broad I’ve noticed self-identification of lazy girl jobs that stretches the definition almost to meaninglessness. Positions that pay $15 an hour through six-figures annually. Instead of more generic business support functions, careers that require a high level of creativity and skill (court illustrator), advanced degrees or experience (software engineer) or stretch credulity being included (lobbyist).

I can understand why this term strikes a chord with Gen Z and a swath of my own millennial generation. Many workers in these groups (myself included) are watching their chances of achieving a certain lifestyle – owning a home, comfortably affording retirement – dwindle before their eyes. If hard-won earnings continue to be outpaced by rising living costs, maybe the next best option is building a life that offers other benefits.

That I’ll concede, but the idea of the lazy girl job being a force to aid the necessary pivot to overhaul our relationship with work gets exaggerated. Even the enthusiast who called the jobs a “mini act of revolution” was overstating their revolutionary power. Workers need to create change but would be better off looking to other more radical “laziness” for inspiration on how to do it.

About 20 years ago, one of my favourite business books was published: Corinne Maier’s Bonjour Laziness. In it, Ms. Maier argues there is no benefit to working harder in the corporate world. It simply invites more work to be piled on. Employees are instead better off doing as little work as they can get away with while collecting their paycheque. It was controversial then, but today a lot of Ms. Maier’s propositions are in line with some career epiphanies that came after the height of the pandemic.

The difference is that when enough employees do what Ms. Maier suggests it hits companies where it hurts most: their pocketbooks and productivity levels. Making cultural changes takes on a financial imperative.

If a lazy girl response to an overly demanding workplace is simply to go work elsewhere, the stakes are not as high for employers to change. They will simply fill the role with someone new and the cycle will continue.

There’s also an issue common to the hashtag career trends of late. While they suggest bold actions, they are ultimately a type of performance.

Workers say they are “quiet quitting” to suggest they have the temerity to quit, though they don’t leave. Or they will “rage apply” to other jobs, which suggests a furiousness with their employers, but a covert one. Now with “lazy girl jobs” there is a suggestion of stepping back from the corporate world, without really having to do so.

If workers want to create a better collective future, plotting an escape to a lazy girl job won’t do it. There’s only one type of “being lazy” that’s going to do it: cutting back on work, setting boundaries and saying no sometimes. Maybe some canny content creator will invent a hashtag and promote that next.

Rob Csernyik is a 2022 Michener-Deacon fellow and a contributing columnist for The Globe and Mail.

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