The Most Committed Managers Are the Most Difficult: The Challenge of the Workplace Martyr

If you’ve ever walked the tricky tightrope of high standards and uncompromising values set by a leader who sees any deviation as a lack of dedication, then you’ve met The Martyr!

To find out how to deal with a difficult Martyr in your workplace, please read on, and check out my book, ‘The 9 Types of Difficult People’.

The Martyr is a highly-principled person with a strong work ethic who builds fiercely loyal teams. They can become judgemental, uncompromising and disconnected from people they regard as less principled or less self-sacrificing.

Whilst their dedication is inspiring, their inability to compromise can stall progress, create friction within teams, and stifle innovation.

Their judgmental outlook and disconnection from ‘less principled/dedicated’ colleagues can lead to a divisive atmosphere, undermining team cohesion and productivity. And if you work for a Martyr, there’s a strong risk that you’ll get dragged down with them, sacrificing your own career or work-life balance without needing too.

If you’ve got a Martyr in your organisation, here’s how to deal with them

If you’re their leader, make sure you’re sharing your own principles. Even if those are different from the Martyr’s, it’s a good way to re-connect with them. Then you can ensure that they know the bigger picture priorities, and why compromise is needed to make some progress towards important goals. And check that you haven’t set them up to fail, with impossible tasks, constraints they can’t control, or a highly risk-averse culture.

If you work for or alongside a Martyr, don’t tolerate their criticisms or judgements of you. And don’t let them turn their back on you. Instead, knock on their door and ask for the kind of mutual compromise that makes sustainable progress possible. Make sure you’re not relying on them to help you develop your career – they’re too ready to unconsciously sacrifice. On the whole Martyrs are sensitive to other people’s needs so will often be very open to any kind of approach.

If you want to help develop a Martyr, your focus should be on exploring what’s behind the negative judgements they make about others and the unhelpful beliefs that might be leading them to self-sacrifice.

Beyond Judgement: The Martyr’s Path to Influential Leadership

At their best, a Martyr can be a transformative leader, able to influence not judge, and so can sweep away roadblocks and be supported by passionate followers, all sustained by a healthy work-life balance.

Have you encountered a difficult Martyr in your workplace?

How did you deal the challenges they presented?