Developing Your Career

Playing the Office Martyr? Tips for a More Satisfying Way to Work

By Helene Cavalli on July 25, 2012

Demonstrating your dedication to your job and to your organization doesn’t mean you need to continually suffer and sacrifice. If you’re complaining about staying late every night, working on weekends, worrying that things will fall apart without you, skipping lunch or can’t remember your last vacation, chances are you’re playing the office martyr. And not only are you suffering, but you’re probably a drain on your colleagues.

Often stemming from a desire for acceptance and acknowledgement, the office martyr may be overcompensating to deal with an underlying lack of confidence or fear of rejection or failure. But there is no value in or reward for sacrificing your own happiness and quality of life for your job. There’s always going to be more work to do, deadlines to meet, demanding clients to satisfy and not enough time, resources and budget.

There are more productive and satisfying ways to work. Here are some coaching tips to help put you on the right path:

  • Know what matters. Learn to identify what’s really important and let the other stuff go. If you aren’t sure about what’s important, ask your boss for clarification so that you can establish expectations and priorities.
  • Focus on quality. Always give your best effort, but pay closer attention to the areas of your job that are most important.
  • Keep things in perspective. While the work we do is important to us, to our managers, our teams and our companies, most of us aren’t saving lives every day.
  • Develop outside interests. Take up a hobby, go to a movie, or meet friends for dinner. Getting your head into a different space helps the creative process and allows you to return to work with a fresh perspective.
  • Ignore the negative self-talk. Frequently criticizing yourself and your work can negatively impact your self-esteem. Make it a point to stop yourself and think about what you’ve accomplished.

If you’re playing the office martyr, you need to understand what’s driving your behavior and how it can negatively affect co-workers, the organization, and your own career. It’s time to take responsibility and identify how you can make the situation better… like giving yourself permission to take lunch.  Really.  It’s fun!

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