10 Warning Signs You've Become a 'Work Martyr'

By Melody Wilding '11SW of the Columbia Career Coaches Network
This article originally appeared on MelodyWilding.com

Today being "crazy busy" is a way of life. Americans are taking less vacation time than ever before, not only to show dedication but also to simply keep up with the demands they face.

This pressure to stay competitive, combined with the 24/7, always-on reality, has contributed to a well-documented rise in burn out. In fact, nearly 40 percent of employees say they actually want to be seen as a "work martyr" by their boss.

According to a study by Project: Time Off, a work martyr is defined as someone who feels a sense of shame for taking time off. They are driven to overwork out of fear that they're disposable or otherwise not valuable if they aren't burning the candle at both ends.

Work martyrs live in a constant state of being overwhelmed, wearing their all-work-no-play status like a badge of honor. In my experience, I've found many self-proclaimed work martyrs also battle with low confidence, poor self-esteem, and have a tendency to be people pleasers — putting other's needs before their own.

While being a hard worker and team player is admirable, the extreme stress of overworking can turn destructive and harm both your health and relationships.

Are you a Work Martyr?

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.

  1. You reply to emails as you see them, no matter the time of day or urgency.
  2. If you receive feedback that is less than glowing, it severely alters your mood for the rest of the day.
  3. You eat lunch at your desk every day.
  4. You go into work even when you're sick.
  5. You think you're the glue that holds everything together for your team.
  6. You complain to anyone who will listen about your long hours and crushing workload.
  7. You silently judge others when they leave work early or take off for family reasons.
  8. You can't remember the last time you spent an entire weekend or holiday away from your computer or phone.
  9. You have to do everything yourself because you don't trust others on your team to do the job up to your standards.
  10. At social events you don't have much else to talk about besides work, because it's your number one interest.

Overworking can be a hard cycle to break, but it can be done by knowing your limits and creating better boundaries.

By allowing yourself to relinquish the victim role, you'll open yourself up to creating healthier relationships with your work, your colleagues, your friends and family, and most importantly, yourself.



Melody Wilding '11SW teaches human behavior at The City University of New York and is a nationally recognized Master Coach who distills psychological insights into actionable career advice. A licensed social worker trained at Columbia, she's helped thousands of professional women and female entrepreneurs master their mindset and emotions for greater success. She's worked with CEOs and executives running top startups along with published authors and media personalities. She can help you identify and remove mental and emotional barriers keeping you from reaching the next level in your career. Learn more about her approach and results at melodywilding.com. If you're interested in working with Wilding one-on-one, get in touch about special private coaching rates for Columbia alumni.

Learn more about the Columbia Career Coaches Network.

You Might Also Like:

By Lynn Berger '84TC, '90TC of the Columbia Career Coaches Network As we progress in our careers and lives, we begin to truly understand what motivates us and how we can make the best choices. For...

By Caroline Ceniza-Levine '93BC of the Columbia Career Coaches NetworkThis article originally appeared on SixFigureStart.com My latest Forbes post covers how to use the summer to keep your job search going, but you can also use the summer...

By Rosemary Bova '71SW of the Columbia Career Coaches Network Disengagement has become a crisis in the American workforce—from top managers to hourly employees. Its impact is felt from personal to global levels. I offer...