Are you a work martyr?

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Do you put in more hours at work than required? Do you avoid going on a vacation? Do you go to work even when you are sick?

If you answered yes to any or all of these questions, you may be a work martyr. A work martyr is someone who is so dedicated to work that she/he is a slave to it. They are even more extreme than workaholics because they believe that it is a badge of honour to sacrifice health, well-being and relationships for work. Martyrs get validation when they feel that they have more work than others. They feel more secure when they seem indispensable.

Other signs:

  • You think (and say) that nobody else can do your job.
  • You make yourself available to the boss 24/7, answering emails even at 1 am.
  • Your favorite dialogue: “I’m so swamped with work!”
  • Your main motivations are a promotion or raise.
  • You never ask for help from your colleagues or your boss.
  • You check in with work while on vacation or you never take vacations.
  • You are always stressed, or harried.
  • You are usually the first one to arrive at the office and the last one out.

Some may think that being a work martyr is a good thing, especially if they come from a country where overworking is the rule rather than the exception. Being a newcomer, you may feel that you have to work doubly hard to prove yourself. But remember, you’re not in your home country anymore. Also, didn’t you move so that you could have a better life? Working yourself to the bone is not better! You have a chance to choose smart and healthier work habits now that you’re in Canada.

The dangers of being a work martyr

Work martyrs sacrifice their own physical, emotional, and psychological needs for their job and this leads to stress. Stress could manifest as headaches, insomnia, or frequent infections. Later on, continuing this kind of life could lead to occupational burnout. Burnout, or severe chronic stress, is similar to a mental illness. It leads to depression, anxiety, anger issues and others. Consequently, it can cause a drop in productivity as an overworked brain can start forgetting tasks. He or she will also be less focused and unable to pay attention.

Aside from health problems, a work martyr’s personal relationships usually suffer and break down. Continuously disregarding your family’s needs because you prioritize work over everything will cause a strain in your relationships.

How not be a work martyr but still come out on top

  1. Make your work hours count
    Staying late and putting in more hours at work does not always translate to being hardworking. This can also mean inefficiency. All the hours of catching up on tasks show that you don’t plan and prioritize well. To correct this, plan your activities before you start the day. Make a to-do list. Prioritize and allot more time for essential tasks. Be realistic. If you think a task cannot be finished within the day, tell your boss. Draw a clear line between work time and personal time.

  3. Think quality over quantity
    Bosses respect employees who carefully take time to do tasks and turn in high quality work. If you need more time to finish a particularly difficult task, inform your boss. If need be, outline the steps so that your boss knows that you are thorough and that you know what you’re doing. If you are bogged down with several tasks that need to be finished within a specific time, ask for help. You don’t have to carry the weight of the world on your shoulders! Your boss and your colleagues might even appreciate it that you recognize their worth and expertise.

  5. Aim to be seen as a well-rounded human being
    Instead of maintaining the image of a work martyr, you will be better off cultivating the image of a well-rounded individual who has interests beyond work. Take vacations! It’s not selfish to want to replenish your energy. Studies show that employees who take regular vacation days perform better than those who forfeit their vacations. It’s probably because de-stressing and re-charging allows us to have more focus, energy and creativity when we get back to work. Also, don’t check in with work while on vacation (unless it is a life and death situation and you can’t avoid it). Work martyrs do this in an effort to show that they are so indispensable that the company will suddenly cease to operate without them. This shows self-importance and can be annoying to your colleagues.

Remember, the key is to work smarter, not harder. You don’t have to sacrifice your well-being to come out on top. Set reasonable limits to the workload you take on and say no when it’s too much. After all, what’s the point of working hard if you won’t be able to enjoy the fruits of your labour later on because you’re too miserable or sick?

How can I compete with a work martyr, Kim Scott, The Muse; 5 Signs that you’re a work martyr, Renée Bacher, Monster; Don’t be a hero: Breaking the work martyr mentality, Jennifer Post, Business News Daily; Being a work martyr doesn’t help you advance your career, study finds, Rose Leadem, Entrepreneur; Burnout is a thing, doctors say. Here are the symptoms, Erica Alini, Global News. All accessed October 31, 2017.

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