Are you an office martyr?

woman making copies papers flyingDo you have a hand in everything happening in your office making you seem invaluable or maybe even irreplaceable? Have you often thought “if I leave tomorrow they’d have to replace me with 3 people?” If so, you may be the office martyr and you’re probably exhausted and burned out!

There are several reasons people become the office
martyr, mostly it’s about people pleasing and approval addiction. Office martyrs want everyone to like them and they go out of their way to get people to like, or at the very least, need them. Office Martyrs are also approval junkies.

Are you an approval junkie?

You’re always looking for approval from others – boss, peers, everyone. Both people pleasing and approval addiction typically start in childhood – keeping the peace in the family, making sure everyone else had what they needed usually at the expense of your own physical, mental, and emotional wellbeing. And because you’re so worried about pleasing everyone else and making everything ok, you continually look to others for approval.

As a little kid you might have said “mommy/daddy, watch me/look at what I’m doing” you’re essentially saying “tell me I’m doing this well;” “tell me you approve of me;” “tell me you love me.” In the office you don’t use that language but the message is the same. “Boss, look at all the things I’m doing. Tell me I’m doing a good job.” All of this is done so you can feel good about yourself. If “they” are happy with me and approve of what I’m doing then I’m ok. I’m good enough. If you don’t get that feedback you tell yourself “I’m not worthy;” “I’m not good enough;” “I suck.”

There’s good news though! You can change without leaving your job or going into hiding! Want to know how? 

So you want to know how to stop being the office martyr?

You STOP doing those things that aren’t your responsibility!

Voila, problem fixed!!

OK, I’m only half serious here. The truth is, by reading this article you’re becoming aware that you are (or may be on the verge of becoming) the office martyr. As with changing any habit or treating any addiction, admitting or acknowledging this to yourself, you’ve already taken the first steps to recovery! Yay you!!

The next step really is to stop doing those things that are not your responsibility. To do this you need to be aware and stop yourself before you say “I’ll do that” or “sure, I’ll take your pet iguana to the vet.” Don’t do it.

Yes, it will feel awkward at first. You might break into a sweat or feel heart palpitations but know this – you are ok. You are going to survive this and you will be better for it. Once you stop saying yes to those extra tasks, you’ll feel better and you’ll notice that life goes on.

Believe me, when others realize you’re not going to do everything, they’ll get clear, real quick, on what really needs to be done and the rest will just fall away.

The next step to freeing yourself from office martyrdom may feel harder. It’s time to begin approving of yourself rather than seeking the approval of others. Once you master this part, you’re going to feel so good about yourself you’ll wish you had never taken on other people’s crap!

How do you approve of yourself?

You acknowledge the good in you, the kind, compassionate, generous, supportive, loving person you are. Because, you are all these and more.

Acknowledge, to and for yourself, all the things you do for others. Pat yourself on the back for a job well done. When you do something well, regardless of how big or small it is, take notice

I have found working with clients that catching yourself doing little things well is more effective than when you notice the big things. Don’t get me wrong, it’s important to acknowledge the big things you do well it’s just that it’s often easier to see them whereas the little things you do well can be easily overlooked or dismissed as “no big deal.”

But they are a big deal! Especially if you’ve spent your life up to this point doing for others. After a while you’ll find self-approval is easier to give and you won’t need the approval of others. Of course, you’ll still get acknowledgements and approval from others for doing a good job and it will still have meaning for you but you will have your own approval and that’s the one who matters!


  1. This is so brilliant! When I was early on in my career I was a total office martyr precisely because I was an approval junkie! Luckily for me a female mentor told me to stop being the note-taker, birthday cake buyer, fixer of non-essential issues and to focus on career helping moves. Such a good reminder!

      • on October 26, 2016 at 10:04 am
      • Reply

      Thanks Patty! I too can relate and thankfully someone pointed it out to me. Stopping alleviated a lot of stress for me.

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