The Martyr in the Workplace

Written by  Amy Day
The Martyr in the Workplace © V&P Photo Studio -


Martyr: A person who suffers greatly for his or her belief.

Are you a martyr? You’ve probably only heard the word in relation to religion. After all, the Bible-time martyrs were all sacrificed for standing firm in their beliefs. But there is such a thing as a martyr in the office, and there are more of them out there than you may think. In fact, you may find yourself to be a martyr as well.

  1. Do you stay late at work when no one else will?
  2. Do you find yourself volunteering for projects because you want the boss to take notice of your hard work ethic, even when you have too much on your plate already?
  3. Do you find yourself complaining about your workload or how little everyone else is working on a regular basis?
  4. Do you have an expectation of a huge reward or payoff that never comes from people whom you are expecting to notice your efforts?
  5. Do you believe your reputation will suffer at work if you come back down to a normal level of work and responsibility? Are you afraid people won’t think as highly of you if you aren’t taking on the world?

If you said ‘yes’ to one or more of these questions, you might be a martyr in the workplace. 

Many struggle with admitting to being a martyr. After all, what’s so wrong with working hard and taking on more and being the one people can depend upon? That’s all well and good. You can work hard and be dependable, but it’s an attitude that comes along with that which defines the true martyr. And there are a number of reasons why addressing this attitude will help—you and everyone else around you.

  1. You’re an enabler – If you’re the one who is always speaking up and taking all the work on, you’re not only inundating yourself, but you’re also enabling the lazybones of the office. You take all the work from them, and they will happily give it to you. But then you can see how this leads to the feeling of you doing everything while no one else is working. They’re not. You took all the work. Then comes the venting and complaining. Martyr.
  2. You raise expectations – When you keep stepping up to the plate to take on more responsibility, you may be doing it because you want someone to take notice and then give you that reward; but what management will eventually see is someone who is quick and capable and requires additional responsibility, full-time. What you’re doing is setting the bar higher for yourself, so that those lofty achievements are always just a bit out of reach. Then, the complaining and moping begin as everyone around you fails to realize just how much you give to the team. Martyr.
  3. You hurt your health – One of the biggest reasons to let martyrdom go is for the effects it can have on your health. When you’re taking it all on and assuming all the responsibility, and then stressing out over what little recognition you’re receiving, and falling into a depressed state over how little everyone cares about you, you’re doing an injustice to your system. You’re being a martyr.

Take a step back. Take a break from work. Decide what you can handle and the boundary of what is too much. Evaluate the performance expectations for your position and your peers to determine what you need to do to accomplish your job in the manner it was created. And remember that it’s okay to go above and beyond just so long as it’s not regularly and you’re not making everyone else around you pay for your generous spirit.

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