fbpx
Are you a workaholic … or is your job just too demanding?
Are you a workaholic … or is your job just too demanding?

I’ve worked with many clients who have wondered if they’re already a workaholic or if they’re becoming one. This blog article is a summary of some of those Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) and my answers on this topic.

Q1. These days, many people work all kinds of hours, including some evenings and weekends. Does this mean that they’re workaholics?

A1. The short answer is no. Some people work long hard hours because they love their work, so they spend a long time enjoying what they’re doing. In other situations, the person feels obligated to work a lot.

workaholic woman starts day at 4 amMany self-employed people, business owners, and professionals will work a variety of daytime, evening and weekend hours. I know a lawyer who often works very early in the morning from 4 am – 6 am on certain tasks. In exchange for late-night, weekend, and early morning hours, these people may take Fridays off to play golf or tennis, schedule hair or nail appointments during the workday, or take time off when things are slower/quieter to keep things in balance.

To be classified as a “workaholic”, a person has to have a very strong need for work which has become so excessive that it has a negative impact on their health and well-being, relationships, and social functioning.

The distinction between work behaviours (that is, working long hours) and a person’s mentality around work (i.e., a compulsion to work, or what we call workaholism) is important. Simply working long hours isn’t associated with poor health. In contrast, workaholism is linked to more health-related complaints, sleep disturbances, emotional exhaustion, cynicism, and depression. To be even more specific, health and well-being among workaholics, regardless of how much they love their job, can be impaired.

 

Q2. Is there a link between being a workaholic and burnout?

workaholics can become burned outA2. Again, the short answer is yes. Research shows a significant positive relationship between workaholism and burnout (e.g., F. Cheung et al., 2018). Burnout is a chronic state of stress that leads to:

  • cynicism and detachment
  • physical and emotional exhaustion
  • feelings of ineffectiveness and lack of accomplishment
  • for more on burnout, read this previous blog article

 

Q3. Can a person who takes their work home with them be overworked and burned out because of how they perceive their workload and responsibilities rather than from their actual job? 

A3. That’s a great and tough question.

Workaholism is due to a real or perceived obligation to work. Therefore, I’d argue that we can feel overworked and/or burned out because of how we think or feel about our work … whether our perceptions are accurate or not.

Sometimes we can put extra or unnecessary pressure on ourselves to work. This pressure could be based on a desire to provide a certain lifestyle for ourselves or our loved ones, due to our ambition, perfectionism/pride, etc. Other times, we are taking our work home because of circumstances. It could be a busy period in our organization, there are deadlines to meet, we’re understaffed, etc.

workaholic employees may be overworked due to unfair expectationsUnfortunately, I’ve known too many people who are overworked to the point of workaholism and/or burnout as a result of an overly demanding or toxic workplace. For instance, there are times when someone is in an unreasonably challenging and high-stakes position that requires an extraordinary ongoing effort with little chance of success (e.g., the glass cliff/scapegoat scenario that I addressed in a previous blog). Or, there are times when an employee is the victim of a bully boss who has put them on a contrived ‘performance management’ regime where they’re forced to participate in punitive and sometimes humiliating additional scrutiny and burdensome administrative tasks.

In this situation, the employee’s work performance isn’t problematic. Rather, their employer/superior is abusing their power to mistreat the employee in a way that has the appearance of being warranted and based on the employee’s poor work. This is different from legitimate performance management where someone’s work is sub-standard, and improvement is important and necessary.

 

Q4. You recently wrote a blog on psychometric testing and how various personality types are better aligned with certain roles and environments. Is there a psychometric test that predicts or identifies workaholism?

A4. Yes, certain personality types are more likely to be workaholics. There are countless online tests that are supposed to help us know if we’re a workaholic. Some are free, others are probably paid. I don’t have enough intimate knowledge of them to make any specific recommendations. If you’re curious about the use of psychometric tests, read this previous blog article ‘What You Need To Know About Psychometric Testing’ for a few pointers.

OCEAN test results predict who is a workaholicOne of the most popular ways to describe personality is the Five-Factor Theory of Personality (also known as the Big Five or the acronym OCEAN). The five factors were identified using a statistical technique called factor analysis.

In summary, the five factors represented by the acronym OCEAN are:

  • Openness to experienceinventive/curious consistent/cautious
  • Conscientiousnessefficient/organized easy-going/careless
  • Extraversionoutgoing/energetic solitary/reserved
  • Agreeablenessfriendly/compassionate challenging/detached
  • Neuroticismsensitive/nervous secure/confident

Most of the Big Five traits are related to workaholism in the following ways:

  • Openness to experience is positively related to the use of multi-tasking that’s common by workaholics (i.e., higher Openness scores are associated with more multi-tasking by workaholics)
  • Agreeableness is linked to less compulsion to work,
  • High scores on Neuroticism (emotional instability) are linked to workaholism.

For an even more granular analysis of these details, read The Personality of the Workaholic and the Issue of “Self” by (Dr. Timothy Pychyl, 2010 an Associate Professor of Psychology, Carleton University)

 

If this blog post resonates with you (or someone you know) I invite you to contact me privately by phone (I offer a no-obligation, free 15-minute initial phone consultation)emailTwitterLinkedIn, or Facebook.

 

Mentoring-by-the-MinuteIf something urgent comes up, I’m also available by a voice or video on Magnifi, an expertise-on-demand app (this will allow you to squeeze in quick calls between the appointments on my official schedule and/or some evening and weekend options).

 

More than career coaching, it’s career psychology®.

 

I/O Advisory Services – Building Resilient Careers and Organizations.™

 

Easily share this article using any of the social media icons below.

Latest Posts

How to Stand Out in an Interview: Part One

How to Stand Out in an Interview: Part One

The interview is going so well. Your answers are flowing naturally; you feel like you’re nailing it; the job is yours for sure. You feel it starting to wind down, and you know what’s coming next. “Why should we hire you? Why do you think you’re the best candidate for this job?”

What’s Your Leadership Style? Part Two

What’s Your Leadership Style? Part Two

In Part One of this two-part series, we looked at Autocratic and its opposite approach, Democratic/Participative leadership styles. This time, in Part Two I’ll describe Transformational, Delegative and Transactional leadership styles.

What’s Your Leadership Style? Part One

What’s Your Leadership Style? Part One

When it comes to leadership styles, which one is right for you? Each style has its own benefits and drawbacks, so if you’re in a position of leadership it’s important to figure out which one will work best for you and your organization or business.

Changing Jobs? Avoid These Interview Red Flags

Changing Jobs? Avoid These Interview Red Flags

With the Turnover Tsunami or the Great Resignation creating an employee-driven job market, employers in all sectors are facing a challenge in identifying and attracting qualified new candidates. Despite the challenge, it doesn’t mean employers want to lower their standards. Just because candidates may be harder to find, it doesn’t mean you’re the only viable candidate. In this blog, Dr. Helen identifies some red flags that job candidates should avoid displaying – even in a tight labour market.