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Are You a ‘Work Martyr’? 10 Signs Your Career Is Taking Over Your 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.

Today being “crazy busy” is a way of life. 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 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.

10 Warning Signs That You’re 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.

Are You a ‘Work Martyr’? 10 Signs Your Career Is Taking Over Your Life


Melody Wilding, LMSW

Melody Wilding, LMSW is a performance coach, licensed social worker, and has a Masters from Columbia. She helps established and rising managers and executives advance in their careers. Her clients work at companies like Google, Facebook, LinkedIn, HP, and Deloitte. She also helps entrepreneurs take bold steps to grow their businesses. Melody has helped over 10,000 smart, self-aware people like you. Her coaching gives you actionable strategies to reach your goals. You get concrete steps to overcome the complex struggles of success. Melody loves arming ambitious people with tools and tactics to boost their confidence. She can teach you skills for assertiveness and influence. Her specialties include better managing your emotions at work. Melody also teaches Human Behavior at CUNY Hunter College in NYC. She writes about psychology and careers for Inc., Forbes, Fast Company, and more. Click here and grab the FREE COURSE to go from insecure to unstoppable confidence 5 DAYS TO FREEDOM FROM SELF-DOUBT..


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APA Reference
Wilding, M. (2018). Are You a ‘Work Martyr’? 10 Signs Your Career Is Taking Over Your Life. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 12, 2019, from https://psychcentral.com/blog/are-you-a-work-martyr-10-signs-your-career-is-taking-over-your-life/
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Jul 2018
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Jul 2018
Published on Psych Central.com. All rights reserved.