Work Martyrs and Mental Health

Do you avoid taking leave because you think you are indispensable at work? Do you equate being crazy busy with being important and valued? Do you work yourself to the bone because you believe no one else can do the work as well as you? At social events, do you mostly talk about work? At the end of the workday, are you still thinking about what you didn’t get done?

If you’ve answered yes to any of these questions, you may be a work martyr. Work martyrs prize hours worked over actual productivity and believe that not taking a break will reap greater professional success. They think no one can do their work as well as them, so they rarely take leave. They strive to show complete dedication to their company and job, often sacrificing other life priorities.

While work martyrs may get a lot done in the short-term, this surge in productivity drops significantly in the long-term. They are also at high risk of burnout. A number of studies have shown that work martyrs have less work satisfaction and a higher level of anxiety.

Do you think your hard work and hustle may be veering into work martyr territory?
Here are a few red flags to watch out for:

  • You reply to emails as you see them, no matter the time of day or urgency.
  • If you receive feedback that is less than glowing, it severely alters your mood for the rest of the day.
  • You eat lunch at your desk or in the office.
  • You go into work even when you’re sick.
  • You complain to anyone who will listen about your long hours and crushing workload.
  • You silently judge others when they leave work early or take off for family reasons.
  • You can’t remember the last time you spent an entire weekend or holiday away from your computer or phone.
  • You have to do everything yourself because you don’t trust others on your team to do the job up to your standards.
  • At social events you don’t have much else to talk about besides work, because it constantly fills your mind.

If you think you’re a work martyr, here are some suggestions that will help you stop:
Say No
Work martyrs usually have no boundaries and rarely, if ever, say no. Commit to saying no more at work. This requires practice if you, your supervisor, and your team are not used to it.

Ask For Help
Work martyrs rarely ask for help because they worry about appearing to be weak. Consider setting a specific goal for yourself, such as asking for help at work once a day. Start with something small. Reward yourself at the end of the week if you meet your goal.

Stop Being A Perfectionist
Many work martyrs are perfectionists, believing that anything less than perfect is unworthy.

Take A Break
Work martyrs rarely take a vacation. Strive to take time off. Even on a staycation, do not check your email or work messages.

Accept What You Can’t Control
Work martyrs often try to control everything in their environment. If they are part of a team or group project, they feel that they are the one who has to make it work. If something goes wrong on a project, they feel they are to blame.

Also see my post regarding wellness in the restaurant and bar industry, a field that has a high level of burnout and work martyrdom.

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