Millennials Are More Likely To Identify As Work Martyrs and Here's Why

Millennials aren’t taking their vacation time and they’re increasingly putting in more time at work. Is the risk worth the reward? For many millennials, it is — but then again, millennials aren’t afraid of a challenge or of changing the rules.

You have the workhorse and then you have the work martyr, which is what millennials are being called in the workplace by experts these days. There are benefits to working hard for your future, and it’s time millennials take the reins and burn brightly, rather than burning out.

Millennials Are Cool With Being Work Martyrs

Aren’t millennials supposed to be entitled and narcissistic? For a generation perceived as lazy and without a good work ethic, older generations will be surprised by what experts have to say on the contrary. Per a recent survey by Project:Time Off and GfK, millennials make up 40% of work martyrs in comparison to 29% of all respondents. Millennials, unsurprisingly, also have an optimistic attitude about their new nickname: 48% believe being a work martyr is a positive.

Meanwhile, only 39% of gen Xers and 32% of boomers believe this perception is a good one. Perhaps older generations are thinking: “Isn’t this just another version of being the teacher’s pet?” Doesn’t working too hard lead to burnout? It leads you to wonder what kind of values work martyrs have and what motivates them. Common themes from the survey include:

  1. “No one else at my company can do the work while I’m away.”
  2. “I want to show complete dedication to my company and job.”
  3. “I don’t want others to think I am replaceable.”
  4. “I feel guilty for using my paid time off.”

A large percentage of millennials receive fewer vacation days than you’d think: The survey found that 37% of millennials receive ten vacation days annually or less, in comparison with gen Xers at 20% and boomers at 18%. Interestingly, millennials are more likely to give those few vacation days up, at 24%, compared to gen Xers at 19% and boomers at 17%.

Why? Millennials are more afraid of what their bosses would think.

Millennial Work Martyrs: Doing What They Have To

What might a day in the life of a millennial work martyr look like? The alarm on your smartphone goes off at 8 p.m., signaling its third reminder for you to put food in your stomach — because as the clock ticks by, basic health maintenance like eating, hydrating and sleeping are forgotten.

You’ve emerged from morning meetings with a list of endless tasks. You’ve conquered the afternoon doldrums thanks to espresso. Now, slowly, you wade your way out from a sea of emails from an inbox you’ve been religiously checking since the crack of dawn.

Millennials are working harder because they began working at one of history’s most competitive times when it came to finding and keeping a job. Against the cries of naysayers, millennials are sacrificing their lives and health on the cross of “working hard to get somewhere in life.”

After all, isn’t that what their grandparents did? Isn’t that the kind of work ethic millennials were taught it took to succeed? It’s not their fault that they were born immersed in a generation of technology or graduated during the height of the Great Recession and the long recovery period that’s followed.

Millennials are making up for lost time and money while being happy to do their part and fearing it may not be enough. Millennial work martyrs are doing what they have to do to survive and hopefully thrive.

The Benefits Of Being A Work Martyr

There are benefits to being a work martyr if you know how to work the system in a way that’s fair to your employer and yourself. Millennials don’t have to put their noses to the grindstone and end up crushed beneath it. Working too hard leads to occupational burnout and increases an employee's risk for serious diseases such as heart disease, depression, Type 2 diabetes and cancer.

Though they’ve accepted their lot, millennials feel encouraged to move beyond it to a brighter future, maintaining optimism in the face of obstacles and challenged to find innovative solutions. Though only a third of millennials are engaged at work according to Gallup, the benefit of being a work martyr is being a part of the galvanizing force changing the workplace for the better: millennials.

Though millennials are work martyrs, they’ve been known to job hop. They’re searching for timely opportunities to build their careers in competitive markets and longing to work with employers who promote a healthy work culture and offer fair benefits. Gallup also found that millennials place a strong importance in “doing what they do best in a role” with care and intention.

Millennials need to take more vacation time and realize it will only benefit them in the long run. Taking time off is linked with better productivity and higher work performance. It also puts money back into the economy: If workers took off an extra day, it’d benefit the economy by $73 billion and reflect back into the workplace.

Millennials job hop to their own benefit as work martyrs, strategically searching for opportunities that will propel them up the ladder. Most employers would recognize a good work ethic and skill set, even if you didn’t spend five years at your last job.

Thanks to their work ethic and financial motivation, millennials are saving more money than any other generation — putting away more because of their emergence into the workforce during the Great Recession. This generation is more cautious about how and what they spend their money on. While saving for retirement may take longer, millennials want to feel fulfilled in the life they have now and are more likely to spend on experience over gadgets.

Millennials must ask if climbing the ladder for a specific career is worth it in the end, remembering to balance happiness and health with work.

Don’t live to work and burn out. Working to live a life you feel fulfilled by is a better return on your career investment.