Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Office Martyrs Take Pride in Raising the Bar; Such Workers Take on Extra Work in Hopes of Career Advancement

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Office Martyrs Take Pride in Raising the Bar; Such Workers Take on Extra Work in Hopes of Career Advancement

Article excerpt

It was Danny that leaped to mind during a conversation this week with Melinda Alison.

A colleague at a small, afternoon daily in Virginia that employed me when journalism was passing through the Paleolithic Age, Danny covered a contentious county board of supervisors that habitually met (and argued) well into the night.

Ignoring the 12-hour cushion of a noon deadline, Danny instead headed straight from the meeting to the newsroom to hammer out his story for the following day's paper.

And in the newsroom, head on his typewriter (an ancient writing device deployed by wordsmiths during the Paleolithic Age), is where the editors would find him slumbering away when they arrived for work the next morning.

The other reporters used several terms to describe Danny's penchant for sleeping on the job - suck-up being the only one suitable for publication.

Alison and Robert Half International, the professional staffing firm that employs her as a St. Louis-based vice president, offer a more genteel description.

Danny, today, would fall into the category of office martyr.

"The martyr is someone who takes the initiative by saying yes to extra work because they think it's good for their career path," Alison explained. "Where it gets convoluted is when they take on responsibility because they are looking for validation based on work."

What was once extreme, pulling all-nighters, has become the norm thanks to technology and the economy.

"The phenomenon got worse the past couple of years because people wanted to do whatever it took to keep their job," Alison said. "They figured if they needed to be plugged in 24 hours a day, then that's what they needed to do."

And of course the ability to plug in at all hours of the day became all the more common once smartphones exploded the walls that existed when correspondence arrived via the U.S. Postal Service and typewriters, computers and telephones were anchored to workplace desks.

Thanks to Steve Jobs, the office is now carried in pockets and purses.

It's up to employers to establish policies for workers now accessible 24/7, Alison said.

"There has to be a formal process in place to help people determine when and when not to answer (a work call) or reply to an email," Alison said. …

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