The parable of the trollish little work martyr

Will Kelly
4 min readApr 6, 2024


The tech industry is a wild world where innovation and deadlines are constantly at odds, but there’s one figure who stands out from the rest: the trollish little work martyr. He’s no ordinary employee. With his bald head, patchy and graying beard. and backward baseball cap, he’s a symbol of rebellion against the corporate machine. He spends his days obscured in a blurry Zoom call background, surrounded by the detritus of countless half-finished projects.

Our protagonist, let’s call him Marty, was a paradox wrapped in an enigma. By day, he appeared to be a diligent worker, hammering away at his keyboard, his eyes glued to the twin monitors that flickered with lines of code and endless Slack threads. But beneath this veneer of productivity, Marty harbored a deep-seated dissatisfaction with his job and, perhaps, life itself.

Marty’s unhappiness stemmed from a myriad of sources. He felt underappreciated and overworked, a cog in a machine that churned out software and profits with little regard for the human element. His ideas, which he often billed as innovative and bold, were regularly dismissed by his superiors, who favored safer, more conventional routes. This rejection fueled a growing resentment within him, a smoldering ember that threatened to ignite into outright rebellion.

And so, Marty became the trollish little work martyr he was destined to be. He mastered the art of internal sabotage, a crafty blend of obstruction and assistance that kept him indispensable yet invisible. Marty fancied himself as knowing the intricacies of the company’s systems better than anyone else, and he used this knowledge to create subtle bottlenecks, obscure bugs, and enigmatic issues that only he could resolve. Contractors and junior team members assigned to work with him found that none of them could do the job better than Marty the trollish work martyr.

His sabotage was not born out of malice but from a desire to prolong his relevance and, paradoxically, to save his job. In a twisted sense, Marty believed that by creating problems only he could fix, he ensured his place in the company. His actions, though detrimental to the projects, were his way of asserting control over his work environment and retaining his sense of importance.

Colleagues began to notice the pattern. Projects Marty worked on were never quite on schedule; they meandered through development phases, stumbling over unforeseen ‘complications’ that miraculously resolved whenever Marty intervened. This earned him a reputation as a problem-solver, the go-to guy for when things went awry, even if he was the one orchestrating the chaos behind the scenes.

Management, oblivious to Marty’s machinations, praised his dedication and problem-solving skills. They saw him as a tireless worker, always on call to douse the fires that, unbeknownst to them, he had lit. Marty’s job was secure, his position unassailable, yet his inner turmoil grew. The satisfaction of being needed was fleeting, replaced by the gnawing realization that his worth was tied to the very problems he created.

His coworkers and the revolving door of contractors on his projects began to distrust him as he sang his same old manipulative song of being too busy working in a startup while complaining continuously that nobody could do work at a level close to what he was doing.

The irony of Marty’s situation was palpable. In his quest to become indispensable, he had trapped himself in a cycle of his own making. The constant stress of maintaining his charade took a toll on his mental health, leading to sleepless nights and a pervasive sense of ennui. His life had become a paradoxical blend of success and failure, his professional achievements overshadowed by the deceptive means through which he attained them.

The parable of the trollish little work martyr is a cautionary tale about the dangers of tying one’s self-worth to their job and the lengths to which some will go to feel valued and secure in their employment. It speaks to the dark side of the tech industry, where the pressure to perform and the dual fear of obsolescence and irrelevance can drive individuals to act against their own best interests and the interests of their colleagues.

In the end, Marty’s tale serves as a reflection on the importance of seeking fulfillment and recognition in healthy, constructive ways. It underscores the need for workplaces to foster environments where employees feel genuinely valued and heard, where innovation is encouraged, and where success is not just measured by deadlines met but by the creativity and well-being of its workforce.

The story of Marty, the trollish little work martyr, is a reminder that happiness and fulfillment at work come not from the assurance of being indispensable but from the joy of contributing to something greater than oneself, in a manner that is honest, constructive, and genuinely appreciated.

Will Kelly is a freelance writer and keen observer of the IT industry and its people. He writer about cloud, AI, and DevOps for tech industry trade publications. When he gets time, Will writes on Medium for fun. Follow him on X: @willkelly.