Workaholism is an under-researched and widely acceptedaddiction. Corporate culture actually promotes workaholism, often ignoring the distinction between a hard worker and a workaholic. Workaholism seems like a good thing to American companies and workers alike, many beliedving that constantly worrying about work and working at the expense of a personal life will help them climb the corporate ladder and get ahead. The research that has been done on workaholism paints a different picture, though, and there may be a need to educate the business world about the dangers of workaholism, both for the workaholic and the company for which they work.
A recent meta analysis of research completed by the School of Business at Rutgers University showed that workaholics can be a detriment to their employers. It’s been known for a long time that other addictions negatively affect not only the addict but their environment. According to the study, workaholism shares features with other more traditional addictions—denial, progressive involvement, rigid thinking, withdrawal upon absence, and addict identity issues. If workaholism is much like any other addiction, then it must take a toll on the environment of the workaholic, including the work environment.
Researchers found that workaholism can have a negative impact on the workaholic’s ability to make decisions and set or reach goals, and their addiction might also make it difficult or impossible for the workaholic to perform as an effective member of a team. The researchers concluded that further study is needed to determine all the ways in which workaholism might interfere with an employee’s effectiveness.
According to some, these ways are already widely known. As with alcoholism, there are different patterns of workaholic behavior, each with its own unique effect. Perfectionism and a need for control often underlie workaholic behavior, making it almost impossible for the workaholic to finish projects on time because they never believe they are truly finished or “good enough.”
Workaholics often have a hard time passing even the smallest parts of a project off to others, even if their plate is already overloaded. They also tend to be so busy and overwhelmed that they rush through projects, causing their work to be sloppy and lacking in attention to detail. In short, they work all the time, but they don’t do a good job.
Workaholism also takes a toll on an individual’s personal life and physical health. Spending long hours at work leads to stress and leaves little time for stress management, which means that most workaholics aren’t getting enough exercise or leisure time. Because workaholics are thinking about work when they’re not actually working, they can’t be present for their own lives. Long hours at the office combined with distraction during break times can leave their families angry and resentful, and workaholics experience a significantly high divorce rate.
The sad truth is that companies often enable workaholics by rewarding those who put in extra time. What they don’t realize is that workaholics may be producing a highquantity of work, but the quality of their work is suffering because the quality of the workaholic’s life is suffering. They also seem unaware of the fact that workaholics will become less and less productive as time goes on, especially as their personal lives and health begin to fail. Many in the addiction community believe that companies have a responsibility to help support their employees’ mental health and physical wellness by promoting programs designed for stress management and discouraging workaholic behavior.