I read a fascinating article recently about the concept of a "work martyr"; someone who is eager to gain recognition for their work by working long hours, refusing to take breaks and just generally running themselves into the ground in order to sacrifice themselves at the altar of career.
It made me wonder if that was me. I am incredibly passionate about my job, loyal to my company which I am very proud to work for and certainly dedicated to working long hours but I can't say I do it for the recognition.
I do it for the personal satisfaction of achieving something for myself and for my company. I have always been of the opinion that someone who works none-stop is nothing but a busy fool. With proper time-management and organisation there should be no need to work outside the contracted hours regularly so I wouldn't expect any recognition for that, especially when I work for a company dedicated to making other companies more effective through the provision of training.
I am guilty of taking on far too much, definitely - that goes with the territory of being eager to please! But the pleasure that I take in my work lends itself to the adage "if you do a job you love, you'll never work a day in your life"
I don't believe that this makes me a work martyr, though I am guilty of the occasional "Gah, I'm still working at 8pm on a Friday" Facebook update. Perhaps I should cut back on those...
The worst kind of work martyrs are the ones who genuinely believe that they are indispensable. We've all come across those people with an over-inflated sense of their own importance who panic that the entire company will fall apart if they drop one of the balls they're juggling. It could very well be true but it's no way to live your life. Ask yourself what would happen if you were hit by a bus tomorrow? Does that make you want to immediately put contingency plans in place? Or does it make you feel strangely relieved because the pressure you're putting yourself under has no place in this scenario.
I can see how people fall into a self-perpetuating cycle if they are a work martyr. After all once you start giving 110%, you've set the pace and it must be hard to stop. Managing the expectations of our colleagues, customers and stakeholders at work is one thing, but challenging a preconception of what you are capable of delivering? Not so much.
The line that's hard to cross back from, is being too focused on work. When your job is your passion - how do you switch off from it? That has always been my problem and I don't have an easy answer for learning to let go of the things that are important to me. I've reached the stage in my life where I am happy with my career - I know exactly what I want to do and how to do it and better still it's plausible - someone is willing to pay me for doing the job I love and in return I am willing to give it everything I have. Work martyr? Not so much.
There are worse things in life to be addicted to than your job - at least my drug of choice is legal!