Are You a Work Martyr? How to Tell and What to Do About It

tired man

Tired man | iStock.com

In our society, most people see it as a good thing to be called a hard worker. It’s a badge of honor to be worn proudly. You’re seen as someone with a good work ethic and even as a role model. If you like your job, you may have moments when you work a little too hard. It’s great to have a job you love, but you also need to know when it’s appropriate to pull back a little. There’s a difference between working hard because you want to do a good job, and working yourself nearly to death.

If you’re always the one volunteering for more work and you’re always the one happily working late and on the weekends, you could possibly be a work martyr. And contrary to what you’ve been led to believe, this isn’t a good thing. That’s right—a survey conducted by Project Time Off found that four in 10 American workers (39%) actually think it’s good to be viewed by their boss as a work martyr. When broken down by age group, the numbers are even higher. It was revealed that 48% of millennials desire to be seen as a work martyr.

In addition, the respondents who identified themselves as work martyrs said they feel stressed at work. Excessive work is a way of life for some employees. Unfortunately, some take it to the extreme—especially those who reside on the lower rungs of the career ladder. One example is the Bank of America intern who was found dead after a 72-hour work day.

While some career experts may label excessive workers as work martyrs, others call this being — you guessed it — a workaholic. Fortunately, companies like Zocdoc are pushing employers to encourage their workers to take a day off before they become sick or die through its Unsick Day initiative. While it’s sad an initiative like this is even necessary, it’s a step in the right direction. Workplace wellness has pretty much gone out the window and Zocdoc is attempting to bring it back.

Are you a work martyr? Here are some of the signs.

Signs of work martyrdom

If the following descriptions sound like you, it’s possible you could be a work martyr.

1. Barely used vacation days

man at work

Man at work | iStock.com/gpointstudio

One tell-tale sign that you could be a work martyr is if you take very little — or no — vacation time. We all need to power down from time to time. However, some employees are giving up more of their lives so they can either prove themselves or reduce their chances of getting fired. Project Time Off said pressures at work are creating a dangerous culture of work martyrdom. This trend doesn’t seem to be stopping any time soon. Last year, 55% of Americans left roughly 658 million vacation days unused, according to the organization. The remedy to this problem? Use your vacation days. Your mind and body will thank you for it.

2. Fatigue

Tired businesswoman

Tired businesswoman | iStock.com/Poike

If you are a work martyr, you likely feel tired much of the time. There’s always an extra project to do or a co-worker to help. The work never really ends. If you’re not giving your mind and body an occasional break, this could spell trouble for both you and your employer. Employees who choose to push themselves too hard are usually the ones who make the most mistakes. You might be highly productive at first, but that productivity will eventually give way to fatigue and major errors. Tired employees can become a workplace liability. The National Sleep Foundation recommends getting at least seven hours of sleep each night.

3. Poor health

woman massaging her painful neck

Sick woman | iStock.com/SIphotography

Working too hard can also take a toll on your overall health. Stress is one of the top complaints cited by employees who admit to overworking. Mental and physical health suffers when work is put before self-care. As mentioned earlier, sleep is important. If you don’t get enough, you could put yourself at risk for compromised immunity, high blood pressure, diabetes, and decreased heart health.

If you’re not taking care of yourself, now is the time to start. Researchers from Harvard and Stanford University have linked work-related stress to 120,000 deaths each year. Another study by Indiana University found that people who have little decision-making power in demanding jobs have a 15.4% increase in mortality. Protect your health by engaging in self-care. Book a spa appointment, talk to a therapist, or just spend a weekend doing nothing. You’ll be more productive and maybe even a little happier and less stressed.

4. You always put your job before your own well-being

young man massaging his nose and keeping eyes closed

Young man massaging his nose and keeping eyes closed | iStock.com/g-stockstudio

Do you work even when you’re very sick? Do you work way past your end time? Do you skip doctor appointments so you can get work done or attend a meeting? These behaviors point to a work martyr mentality. However, some workers are scared to take a day off when they’re sick because they fear being viewed as a slacker. A recent Zocdoc survey found that three out of five (60%) of American workers feel uncomfortable leaving work early for a preventive care appointment due to pressure at work. However, you won’t be useful to anyone at your office if you’re not in top form. Do yourself (and your co-workers) a favor and take better care of yourself. You can start by scheduling that annual physical you’ve been putting off.

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