Copyright 2000 W. Jan Austin, Corporate Coach and President of Potential At Work, Inc. All rights reserved.
Web Site URL: http://www.potentialatwork.com
WORKAHOLISM AND THE CULT OF PRODUCTIVITY
THE SYMPTOMS, THE CAUSES, THE CURE
What is workaholism?
- Workaholism is an excessive, compulsive need to work— with resulting damaged interpersonal relationships, health problems, diminished life satisfaction, distorted thinking, and impoverished social relationships.
- Workaholism, like any addition, is a need that cannot be met. It’s typical for a workaholic to see him/herself as not functioning as well as other people, and to rationalize the excessive need to work. Others typically see the problem and its consequences, even when the workaholic cannot.
What are the ramifications of workaholism?
- The excessive need to work may mask underlying low self esteem or inability to cope with life’s normal ups and downs. Work becomes a huge defense mechanism.
- Excessive work can cause distorted thinking, with the individual feeling the need for ever increasing amounts of recognition or monetary rewards, or feeling chronically anxious, even when things are going well.
- When one works to an extreme, normal life experiences are curtailed, and eventually, the life of the workaholic becomes sterile and stultifying. Rigidity and impaired performance are the result.
Why does it seem more and more people are becoming workaholics?
- The average workweek is now up to 47 hours, 4 more than just 20 years ago
- A 1999 Gallup poll showed that 44% of Americans call themselves “workaholics”
- Organizational change (downsizing, mergers, re-engineering) have led to increased worker anxiety about job security, leading many to over-commit in order to demonstrate their value to their organizations.
- Organizations are expecting more from every worker in a downsized, cost cutting environment.
- Technology has increased the speed of just about everything, and instead of creating more free time, has increased the demands on people.
- More people than ever before are working in their own businesses—where there are no boundaries on their time, and no end to things to do.
What are some signs and symptoms of workaholism?
- You get more excited about work than about family or anything else
- You take work to bed, on weekends, and on vacation.
- Your home is just another office.
- You are tired, irritable, socially isolated.
- You have physical stress symptoms such as headaches, insomnia or muscle tension.
What are some of the things the workaholic can do to regain control over his or life?
· First, ask for candid feedback about how others see you. Listen to their insights about your over-commitments and the consequences of your excessive need to work
- Schedule time for your primary relationships—these need to be your top priority in your recovery, as they are the ones most damaged
- Seriously re-evaluate your long term goals. Ask yourself are you really doing what you want to be doing with your life? When you look back on this time many years from now, what will you want to say about how you spent them?
- Avoid sudden “withdrawal”, but gradually decrease the number of hours you work each day or week Ex: stop taking work to bed or working on weekends
- Plan leisure into your schedule, just like any other important commitment
- Engage in some physical exercise each day, even if it’s just a walk
- Don’t indulge in feeling guilty about not working
What if the problem is more than the individual can manage on his or her own?
- If the problem with work is mild to moderate, working with a professionally trained coach can assist you with the needed structure and support for changing your work habits and achieving greater work life balance
- For more serious workaholism, addictions treatment from a licensed mental health professional may be necessary
- Workaholics Anonymous, a self help group based on the Twelve Step Program pioneered by Alcoholics Anonymous, can provide valuable support from those who’ve experienced similar work problems