I recently read an article from Entrepreneur.com titled "5 Types of Toxic Employees" and liked it so much that I shared with a group of new managers. After going through the article and infographic, they agreed that the most common type of toxic employee they see is the martyr.
Which isn't surprising. As an Organizational Development professional, I see martyrs all the time and they are the worst.
Martyrs try to make everyone else look bad by continuously showing that they worked the hardest, know the most, or made the best product. They are a drain on company culture.
I once worked with a martyr that had to have his desk strategically placed in the corner of the office so he could see and hear everything. A key indicator of working with a martyr is that they have to know everything that is going on so they can always make themselves look better. In project meetings he would always lead with a statement explaining how busy he was, and how it was going to take extra effort to get the new deliverable done, but that if he had to stay up late to do it, he'd make it happen. He'd come to work sick (as the picture shares) just so everyone knew he was sick and pushing through.
Leaders that are martyrs say things like "I was up until 11:00pm working on this" and "I'm going to be working all weekend to get caught up." They are always busy, always needed, always sacrificing. A leader who is a martyr sets the unwritten rule that it's expected to answer email after work hours, because they send those emails.
Even if a martyr's intentions are good (they are dying to get a promotion/raise/recognition) they are toxic because they:
- Make themselves look good at someone else's expense - they will throw someone under the bus if needed
- Don't have a team player attitude - try to take on everything to show how needed or competent they are
- Annoy their teammates - which can impact engagement or efficiency
- Are only focused on their needs - I'm betting they start most sentences with "I"
Working with a martyr is draining. Don't be one.