How to deal with that coworker who “does all the work around here.”
Q: My co-worker constantly talks about how late she stays and drops hints that she’s the one doing most of the work. It makes me crazy. Please help.
A: Listening to martyrs moan about their workload and claim to be the only ones who care is inherently annoying. That vague annoyance is a necessary and normal negative emotion that comes from interacting with other humans who behave badly. But letting her drive you “crazy”? That’s a gratuitous negative emotion, a “second dart” of suffering that you are throwing at yourself.
It sounds like you interpret her comments as criticism of you and your work. But do you need to care what she thinks? Do you think you work enough hours, care a sufficient amount, and complete decent work? If so, abandon the playing field. Let her be the undisputed work-too-much champion and move on with your life.
But that’s not always easy to do in the moment. Empathy and curiosity can help. She’s behaving this way for a reason. Why? In our experience, martyrs are often looking for recognition or a sense of importance and meaning that they aren’t getting elsewhere in their lives. Instead of letting her martyrdom tweak you, have empathy: Life as a human can be hard.
Eric is really good at finding empathy for annoying people (his go-to tool is a connection or loving-kindness meditation). Being a less-nice human, I sometimes have to pause at the way-station of pity for a while. Unlike empathy, pity is not a connecting emotion. The “Oh, poor them!” vibe of pity puts me above the other person and keeps us emotionally separate. But sometimes I need to spend a little time feeling smug and superior before I’m ready to move to true empathy.
True empathy is giving her what she needs. Thank her for her work. Tell her you appreciate how much she cares. Point out in public the good things she’s done before she feels the need to. It costs you nothing and might shut her up for a while.
However you choose to handle your martyr, though, try to avoid the Busyness Olympics, where you compete with her for who is working more and harder. All that does is normalize overwork for everyone within earshot and nobody needs that.