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Cherie T. Buisson, DVM, CHPV
Certified Hospice and Palliative Care Veterinarian
Originally published on DrAndyRoark.com

Those people who insist upon being the first at work in the morning and the last to leave at night share a common malady. They share it with people who don’t use their vacation time and who are the “only ones” who know how certain things at work are done. They make themselves indispensable and important until everyone believes the myth. I give you: the Office Martyr.

The Martyr will have you believe that they are the most valuable person in the clinic. Everyone will look like a slacker in comparison. There will be heavy sighs, notes full of passive aggression, and meetings where the entire staff is called out for the actions of a single person. They are the “only one” who cleans up dishes, replaces the paper towels and works on their day off. They bully staff members and then claim they are the victims of bullying. Telling them “no” is the equivalent of the old Bugs Bunny double face-slap with a pair of gloves.

Be smarter than the Martyr! Realize that the Martyr is sabotaging your practice. Anyone who challenges the Martyr will be systematically and efficiently eliminated. They will harass their target until they get an aggressive response and then be shocked and appalled that anyone could treat them so badly. They run good employees off, leaving you shaking your head at why there is such turnover at your clinic.

How can you spot and correct a Martyr problem? Just remember – it’s isn’t always someone else.


Everyone needs to know how to do everyone else’s job. NO ONE gets to keep secrets or be the only one who knows how something works. Obviously, you can’t go handing out the drug keys or the combination to the safe to everyone, but everyone should be able to access the phone number to the plumber, electrician and anesthesia machine servicing company.  If someone doesn’t know how to send digital radiographs via email, there should be a place to quickly access that information.  Resources don’t need to be on someone’s cell phone. Your office software likely has a Q&A or Notes section that can contain all the goodies.


If there are frequent skirmishes and one employee is always somehow involved, investigate. If there is a person whose attitude determines what kind of day the whole clinic is going to have, call them out on it. If the staff has to text someone at home frequently to find out where something is or what they told a client, focus on that person. If you find yourself avoiding a staff member because the confrontation isn’t worth it, that’s your Martyr.


Vacations are excellent for reducing compassion fatigue. You need a break from your employees and they need a break from you (and each other). Avoid letting people carry over vacation or take it as cash. Be sure there is a rule in place that texting, calling or emailing employees on vacation must be approved by management. And seriously, folks, it needs to be an emergency. I know people who have received work texts during their wedding and while saying goodbye to a family member in hospice care.  FOR. CRYING. OUT. LOUD.


The Martyr will have you voice their concerns to other employees. They will convince other employees to be their mouthpiece. A good, old-fashioned sit-down with communication between ONLY the involved parties is so much more helpful than a game of “telephone” or a blanket statement at a staff meeting that everyone must wash their own dishes (what is it about the dishes????).


C’mon now. If we can tell that the cat who flicked an ear was the cause of the conflict between two of our patients, surely we can spot when one of our employees is picking on everyone else. Don’t let tears and drama fool you. The real victim is often suffering in silence.


You should be reviewing your employees at least yearly. Make sure you give them a chance to tell you what’s going on around the clinic. Ask how things are going and if there is anything that can be improved. Make sure you’re the kind of boss that encourages your staff to come to you with concerns. You don’t necessarily have to be the one to solve them, but you do need to be aware.


There is absolutely NO reason you or your staff should have to come to work with someone who creates drama and chaos. I have a friend who fires any employee who causes her to lose sleep at night. Warm bodies are worthless. I’d rather see you short-staffed than staffed with people who cause trouble.  (And for those of you working for a Martyr, remember: you can only change your own behavior. If that means resigning, run like the wind).

For some reason, management seems to get overly attached to bad employees. Perhaps we feel it’s a reflection on us that an employee we chose is not working out. Trust me, it’s a far worse reflection on you to force the rest of your staff to put up with someone who behaves this way. Think about it, how many times have you finally fired someone, and everyone gives a big sigh of relief? Typically we say “I can’t believe I waited so long to do that!”. Surround yourself with people who make you better. You’ll never regret it.