Cutting the Workaholic Martyr Crap Starts with You

Workaholic BossDo you struggle to find time in your workday to actually sit and think? To plan for what are strategically the best new moves for your organization?

Is it a badge of honor to NOT use vacation days, or to work late into the night, every night? To respond to emails as soon as they arrive in your inbox, at all times of day and night?

I’ve been hearing stories like these for a long time in the nonprofit world, but as I mentioned last week, we heard many more during the session on work-life balance at NTC last week.

If you are answering YES to these questions, here’s the thing: Your nonprofit is not only failing you as an employee, but by going along with this workaholic/martyr culture within your organization, you are also failing it. 

Your brain needs a break in order to think strategically and to solve problems creatively.  If you think about it, time off is actually time on — it’s time for your brain to recover from your to-do list chaos and to start subconsciously making connections and discoveries that your task-oriented worker-bee self will never find.

And how exactly do you expect your organization to grow and change without that kind of strategic thinking and creativity?

Do yourself AND your nonprofit a favor, and lead the culture change within your organization.

Schedule some vacation days now, and TAKE THEM.

Let people know ahead of time when you will be out and when you will not be returning their emails, and let them LEARN to LEAD THEMSELVES. Help them see that their panic and impatience over not waiting until Monday — in 99% of the cases — is actually causing more harm than good.

Schedule an #NPCommFreeDay for yourself to get some of that planning done. Refuse to take any meetings or answer any calls or emails for one whole day so you can work on your priorities without interruption.

Do it for yourself. Do it for the cause. It’s the same thing.





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  • Laurie

    I so totally agree. I may work crazy long hours, but I’ve always told the people that I work for that I work hard, but I also play hard. So I have no problem using my vacation. I love to travel and purposely choose locations that are off the grid. With no cell or internet access you remove the temptation.

  • Wanda

    This is so timely! I actually told my supervisor that I will need to take off on Friday due to it being Wed and I’ve already worked 24 hours! before an 8 hour shift today. I needed this as a reminder to not engage with this portion of the culture and to make a difference by doing something different.

  • Well said, Kivi! A great reminder for all of us to set clear boundaries so that we stay sane, happy AND productive.

  • Shobha Hiatt

    I totally agree. Taking a vacation and being electronics-free helps me think and see the wider picture in a way that sitting at my desk and working late can never do. Good post!

  • Very good advice. And, a nice reminder.

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