When you leave for a week's vacation in the Poconos, it's probably not your boss who's rolling her eyes. More likely, it's the younger people in the office doing the vacation shaming. But don't worry, they're just as hard on themselves.
Millennials have a tendency to be workplace martyrs, says a study by Project: Time Off and GfK, which essentially means they value hours spent working and an appearance of dedication over output. When asked questions about whether they want to be seen as work martyrs, why they don't take vacation days, as well as sources of work pride and pressures, 29 percent of survey respondents fit the criteria of a work martyr. But nearly half (49 percent) of Millennial survey respondents copped to being work martyrs.
The survey defines work martyrs as people who want to seem committed, worry about being replaced, feel guilty about taking time off, and think no one else can do their job while they are away. Over 70 percent of work martyrs don't think their company's culture encourages time off, and say their managers don't support it either.
But the study suggests it's not strict senior employees enforcing an "always on" environment. Millennials' desire to appear dedicated tends to manifest itself in a culture of "vacation shaming." Millennials self-reported twice as much that they made others feel a sense of shame for taking vacation, and they are more likely than their over-34 colleagues to feel ashamed for taking vacation (59 percent versus 41 percent).
Technology and a changing workplace culture could be partially to blame. Working away from the office is easier, so it's not always necessary to formally take a paid day off when you know you can work on the plane or be accessible via email, phone call, Slack, or text. Research also suggests Millennials think about work more often than older generations--perhaps to the point of obsession.
On the other hand, the rise of remote working has made some workers feel like they need to prove they're "always on" or committed to their work. Between a half and a third of workers of all ages (47 percent of unhappy workers and 38 percent of happy workers) think it's a good thing if their boss sees them as a work martyr.
Here's the thing though: There is no upside to being a work martyr. People in this group are more likely to feel stressed at home. Nearly three quarters say their managers are not supportive of taking vacation time, and half say they pressure themselves to work while on vacation. Work martyrs are less likely to have gotten a bonus in the last three years, and the group shows a misplaced desire for pride, with 59 percent saying they want their boss to call them a work martyr.
So what's the lesson here? As usual, it's communication. In this case, communicating to your team that productivity is more valued than time spent at your desk. And taking vacation time is healthy and encouraged, and that the business will survive in their absence. After all, when it's time for you to take that cruise to the Bahamas, you don't want people snickering behind your back.