6 Reasons Being a Work Martyr is the Worst

Four in ten American workers think it’s a good thing to be seen as a work martyr by their boss. Allow me to be your voice of reason and ask, “but why?!”

Well, call me the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come, because I’m about to show you what happens when you actually become a work martyr. Project: Time Off defined work martyrs as those who feel that they can’t take time off because:

  • No one else can do the job.
  • They don’t want to be seen as replaceable.
  • They want to show complete dedication.
  • They feel guilty using time off.

True work martyrs aren’t doing themselves—or their careers—any favors. Take a look at the startling differences between work martyrs and the broader employee population. These six reasons to change your work martyr ways should be enough for an Ebenezer Scrooge-style epiphany.

1. You Have a Stressful Work Life. We all feel stress at work, but for work martyrs, it’s even worse. While 71 percent of employees report feeling stress in their work life, that number is notably higher for work martyrs at 84 percent.

2. You Have a Crazy Stressful Home Life. At home, the stress equation is even worse. Where just 43 percent of employees say they feel stress in their home lives, 63 percent of work martyrs do. That’s a 20% difference for anyone counting at home.

3. You Feel Little Support at Work. 76 percent of work martyrs do not believe their company’s culture encourages taking time off, compared to 65 percent of employees. Work martyrs also receive significantly less support at work for taking time off, with 70 percent saying they are not supported by management (compared to 58%), and 63 percent saying they are not supported by their colleagues (compared to 53%).

4. You Put Overwhelming Pressure on Yourself. A majority (55%) of work martyrs pressure themselves to check in while on vacation, compared to less than a third (31%) of all workers. Work martyrs are almost twice as likely to agree that their company expects them to check in while on vacation or are unsure of their company’s expectations (49% work martyrs, compared to 25% of workers).

5. You May Earn Less. Despite sacrificing time off with family and friends to put in more time at the office, work martyrs are slightly less likely to have received a bonus in the last three years. Seventy-five percent of work martyrs reported receiving a bonus in the last three years, where 81 percent of the overall employee audience received one. The difference is clear evidence that work martyrs’ perceived commitment may not be valued—or as valuable—as they think.

6. A False Sense of Pride. Unsurprisingly, those who qualify as work martyrs are proud of their martyrdom. A staggering 59 percent want their boss to call them a work martyr—fully 20 percentage points higher than employees. Worse yet, their desire to be seen as work martyrs goes beyond just the boss. They also want to be seen as work martyrs by their colleagues (43% of work martyrs, compared to 27% of employees), their friends (31%, compared to 16%), and their families (24%, compared to 13%).

Work martyrs, it’s not too late. Grab your calendar, take your time off, and change your fate.


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