Creative people working at startup

Who are the worst offenders when it comes to forfeiting vacations and time off? If you guessed Millennials, surprisingly, for all their pampered and protected upbringing and expectations of comfort, you would be right. 

Millennials are the most likely generation to forfeit time off, even though they earn the least amount of vacation days. Millennials stay at work because they feel more fear and greater guilt about taking time away from the office than any other generation.

These findings, from Project: Time Off’s new report, The Work Martyr’s Cautionary Tale: How the Millennial Experience Will Define America’s Vacation Culture, make clear that work martyrs – employees who skip vacation to show complete dedication to their job — are worried they will be seen as replaceable as well feel guilty for using time off. Those who believe that they, alone, can do the job are overwhelmingly Millennials. In fact, more than four in ten (43%) work martyrs are Millennials, compared to just 29 percent of all workers.

Millennial workers

“The ‘entitled Millennial’ narrative is dead wrong when it comes to vacation. As the largest generation in the workforce, one that is now stepping into management, Millennials are developing vacation attitudes that will define and negatively affect America’s work culture,” said Project: Time Off Senior Director and report author Katie Denis. “The circumstances of the Millennial experience—the Great Recession and its aftershocks, growing student debt, and an always-connected lifestyle—have created a perfect storm for their work martyr behavior.”

Millennials are much more insecure about their employment compared to other generations. Compared to Boomers, Millennials are at least twice as likely to find taking time off difficult because they don’t want to lose consideration for a raise or promotion, don’t want others to think they are replaceable, and want to show complete dedication, among other reasons.

Reasons Time Off Is Left On The Table Millennials Boomers
Don’t want to lose consideration for raise or promotion. 26% 9%
Don’t want others to think I am replaceable. 27% 11%
Want to show complete dedication to the company and my job. 30% 15%
Feel guilty using my paid time off. 27% 12%
Afraid of what my boss might think. 23% 10%

More than one-quarter (28%) of Millennials are in management roles already, a number that will rise as Boomers leave the workforce. Nearly half (47%) of Millennial managers said that company pressure prevents them from approving time off requests for their direct reports, compared to just 34 percent of Generation X and 37 percent of Boomers who feel the same.

The pressures of American work culture have produced ideal conditions for the rise of the work martyr. Almost half (48%) of Millennials think it is a good thing to be seen as a work martyr by their boss, far outpacing the average (39%) and well ahead of the Boomer generation (32%).

“There are larger implications for the workforce when people don’t take vacation,” Denis added. “Time off is essential to employee productivity, creativity, and overall performance. Businesses need to recognize the power of time off and work toward creating a positive vacation culture.”


GfK conducted an online survey using the GfK KnowledgePanel® from January 20-February 16, 2016 with 5,641 American workers working at least 35 hours per week and who receive paid time off. GfK’s KnowledgePanel® is the only large-scale online panel based on a representative random sample of the U.S. population. See the report for full methodology.