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Addicted to Work: When Hard Work Doesn’t Pay Off

Do you think about work all the time? Do you compulsively check work-related email or texts, even when on vacation or when spending time with family and friends? Do you work frantically to avoid feeling like a failure? If so, you could be a workaholic, according to Workaholics Anonymous.

Being a workaholic may not seem all that bad. After all, it’s important to have a good work ethic and to give 100% on the job. But there’s a difference between a high performance worker and a workaholic. One of those differences is that while high performance workers tend to express high job satisfaction and feelings of accomplishment, workaholics are likely to feel stressed out, burned out, and unproductive.

Why Being a Workaholic is Bad For Business

Workaholics and high-performance workers may both look like stellar employees. They both work hard and value productivity. The difference is that workaholics work in ways that sabotage their efforts toward greater productivity, leading them to be less productive and less satisfied with their efforts than their colleagues.

Research suggests that workaholism is closely related to internally motivated perfectionism. People who derive their sense of personal identity from their performance at work or on other tasks tend to undermine their own productivity by setting standards of completion so high that they can’t be achieved. They often feel incompetent and unproductive, making it difficult to leave work behind when they are with friends or on vacation. Work is the dominating aspect of their lives.

Are Your Work Habits Sabotaging Your Career?

Not everyone who has high work standards is a workaholic. Successful people tend to set lofty goals, work hard to achieve those goals, and put in long hours on the job when needed. So how do you know when you’ve become a little too obsessed with a job well done? Here are 7 signs that you need to step back, take a deep breath, and loosen up a little bit:

  • You derive your sense of self-worth from outside sources.
  • You are constantly busy, but you feel as though you haven’t accomplished much.
  • You have no clear definition of success. The job is never complete.
  • You have difficulty prioritizing tasks. All work seems equally urgent.
  • You judge your success based on a project’s level of influence and/or income potential, rather than based on concrete standards.
  • Work always comes before your own needs for rest, relaxation, family time, or personal interests.
  • Your work habits cannot be sustained over long periods of time. You feel burned out and frustrated with your job, even when you achieve successful results.

High-performance workers value hard work, but they also value their time away from work. Workaholics, by contrast, cannot leave work even when they should. At the end of the day, the workaholic sabotages his or her own career success by creating unsustainable job expectations that often end with leaving to find a new position.

Work-obsessed employees can alienate co-workers when they don’t measure up to arbitrary standards of success. They don’t work well as part of a team, because they tend to take on more than their share of the workload in order to “do it right.” Ultimately, both project results and office morale may suffer as a result of the workaholic’s unending drive for perfection.

Developing a positive work-life balance isn’t easy. But psychologists insist that it is essential for maintaining positive relationships and feeling satisfied with life. By acknowledging the problem, taking inventory of where their life and work currently stand, and determining what changes they need to make to move forward, workaholics can take positive steps toward creating a more sustainable work ethic that fosters creativity and productivity, both on the job and elsewhere.New call-to-action