Many in the travel, hospitality and tourism industries worry about a growing “work martyr” culture within the Millennial generation that is resulting in an ongoing reduction in time taken for vacation.  A recent online survey by GfK (Germany’s largest market research institute) and another by Alamo Rent A Car appear to justify those fears.

Sleeping at your desk to save time is not a vacation, Work MartyrProviders of unique lodging and vacation experiences such as our client bed & breakfast innkeepers and dude ranchers need to learn what this phenomena is, what it means, and how to cope and even thrive in it.

The first article presents the studies and the second article will focus on how to address the work martyr issue in your online marketing efforts.

How the Surveys Were Conducted

The online survey GfK conducted from January 20-February 16, 2016 used its KnowledgePanel® system on 5,641 American workers age 18 and up who work more than 35 hours a week and receive paid time off from their employer. GfK claims that their KnowledgePanel® is the only large-scale online panel that is based on a random sample representation of the population of the United States.

Generations at Work - Millenial, Generation X & Baby BoomerThe generations represented in the reporting come from the Pew Research Center and are:

  • Millennials (born 1981-1997)
  • Generation X (born 1965-1980) and
  • Baby Boomers (born 1946-1964)

1,500 adults age 18 and up from the 50 states and the District of Columbia participated in the Alamo Family Vacation Survey which was conducted from January 5-15, 2016 . The survey used the Research Now online consumer panel. Age data reflects the adult population based on U.S. Census data. Millennials are defined as 18 to 34 year olds.  Statistics from this study that appear in this article are noted with (A).

Defining the “Work Martyr”

Work Martyr

For the purposes of the surveys and this article, a work martyr is more likely to agree with the following four statements than a “not-a-work-martyr” worker:

  • “No one else at my company can do the work while I’m away.”
  • “I want to show complete dedication to my company and job.”
  • “I don’t want others to think I am replaceable.”
  • “I feel guilty for using my paid time off.”

It is the work martyr’s attitude that leads to the prioritization of effort (hours at work) over achievement (productivity) and a belief that taking time off for vacation leads to a lower success rate at work.

Work Martyrdom by the Numbers

The statistics in the GfK and Alamo surveys show the stronger work martyr tendencies among Millenials.

Who Are Work Martyrs

  • 43% of Millennials identify as work martyrs, compared to 29% of all survey participants
  • 52% of work martyrs are female
  • 55% of work martyrs are married, compared to 62% overall

Work Life

  • 48% of Millennials want to be seen as a work martyr by their supervisor
  • 39% of Generation X agree
  • 32% of Baby Boomers agree
  • 35% percent of Millennials believe it is good to be seen as a work martyr by colleagues
  • 26% of Generation X agree
  • 20% of Baby Boomers agree

It is interesting to note here that 86% state that it is a bad thing to be seen as a work martyr by their family.

Vacation Days

Here’s where we get to the source of the “vacation problem” created by word martyrs:

  • 30% of Millennials call their supervisor the most powerful influence over their time off while just 20% cite their family and 13% cite their health
  • 25% of Baby Boomers cited their family as the most powerful influence, followed by 21% citing health and just 20% citing their supervisor
  • 24% of Millennials either forfeited days or do not even know if they forfeited days last year
  • 19% percent of Generation X stated the same
  • 17% percent of Baby Boomers stated the same
  • 37% of Millenials earn 10 vacation days or less
  • 20% of Generation X stated the same
  • 18% of Baby Boomers stated the same

Not only do Millenials feel more pressure from their supervisors and forfeit more vacation days than older generations, they also earn fewer days on average.  Much of the latter can be put down to their relative youth and level of experience, so the number of available vacation days is likely to rise, but the question of how many of those days the majority will take will remain a big question mark.

Vacation ShamingThe Alamo survey yielded some disturbing statistics related to vacations as well:


  • 59% of Millennials reported feeling a sense of shame for taking or planning a vacation compared to those 41% of those 35 or older (A)
  • 42% of Millenials report engaging in “vacation shaming” of their colleagues compared to 24% of those 35 or older (A)
  • 44% of participants in the 2016 survey reported that they never do work while on vacation, which is substantially lower than the 48% who made the same statement in the 2015 survey (A)


Millennials as Managers

Currently, around 28% of Millennials hold management positions and this percentage likely to grow as their generation gain experience.

The good news:

  • Millenial Manager56% of Millennial managers believe that their employees who take vacation time are less stressed and prone to burnout
  • 53% of Generation X and Baby Boomer managers agree
  • 50% of Millennial managers believe that their employees who take vacation time are more productive
  • 47% of Generation X and Baby Boomer managers agree
  • 39% of Millennial managers believe that their employees who take vacation time are more willing to put in longer hours when needed
  • 34% of Generation X and Baby Boomer managers agree

The bad news:

  • 47% of Millennial managers report that they feel pressure from their company to no approve time off requests for their team members
  • 34% of Generation X agree
  • 37% of Baby Boomers agree

The Danger of Work Martyrdom to Travel, Hospitality & Tourism

Project: Time Off, an organization founded by the U.S. Travel Association, reports the  increased pressures of the 24/7 always-on attitude when it comes to work caused an estimated 55% of working Americans to abandon some portion of their vacation days in 2015, leaving a record 658 million days of unused paid time off.

Vacancies SignThe cultural shift in attitude toward work and vacation that Project: Time Off advocates would certainly help solve this issue, but the if, when, and amount of this change can’t be predicted.  Provider businesses and organizations in the travel, hospitality and tourism need to address the “vacation problem” now.

Has the Work Martyr “Vacation Problem” Hurt Your Business?

According to Travel + Leisure, the percentage of vacation days taken by American workers have been on the decline since 2000 (about the time the first Millenials entered the workforce).  This decline has accelerated over time.  Has your business suffered from this work martyr issue?  Leave a comment or contact me directly if you prefer your response be kept anonymous in future blog posts about this subject.

In the next article, I will present ways for B&B inns, dude ranches and related “personalized vacation” providers to improve the effectiveness of their online marketing efforts to reach and earn vacation time from this growing work martyr culture.