Being a Workaholic is not the same as being engaged

Being a workaholic is a true addiction
Being a workaholic is a true addiction

How many of us know someone who proudly proclaims they are a workaholic? Perhaps some of you reading this post feel that way about yourself. Some claim it is because they are really engaged in their work. That may be true but a recent study showed that there is a difference between being engaged in your work and being a workaholic.

An addiction

There are people who truly love their work and more power to them. This however, does not make them a workaholic. As reported by Lindsay Lavine in Fast Company, Malissa Clark, a psychology professor at the University of Georgia, says that workaholism is a largely negative state. She reports that it is an addiction. Workaholics cannot help thinking about work. As a result it has several negative impacts on their lives.
According to Clark, people who are engaged in their work have positive feelings about work and home. Workaholics on the other hand experience negative emotions at both work and home. She says it operates as many other addictions and “workaholics may feel a fleeting high or a rush when they’re at work, but quickly become overwhelmed by feelings of guilt or anxiety.” They are not doing the work because they love it but because there is an internal pressure to do the work. The effects of this negative internal pressure are:

  • feeling less satisfied with their jobs and lives outside of work,
  • feeling burned out,
  • experiencing greater work and family conflict,
  • and being in poorer physical and mental health.

Surprising finding

Clark found something she was surprised in. This is the relationship between gender and age and workaholism. She discovered that older women are more likely to be workaholics than are younger women. With men the opposite is true, younger men tend to be the workaholics and older men take it easier. She did however say not to read too much into this finding, there is just not enough data on the area. My guess is we will see more work done by Clark in this in the future.

Curbing the pressure

Many workaholics put the pressure on themselves. It may be the way they were reared. Parents may have been examples growing up. Companies, however, also contribute to this with the pressure they put on employees through workaholic supervisors. As with many addictions if you give an addict their poison of choice they will consume it to their detriment. Work is no different. If you notice you have workers who are work addicts as opposed to people who are truly engaged then you may need to look at your culture and try to relieve the pressure points.

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