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Workaholism Summary

Recently, in the US there has been a dramatic rise in the number of people working longer hours. Understanding how workaholic behavior patterns can affect ones psychological well-being and life satisfaction is becoming increasingly of greater importance to mental health professionals. Workaholism has been described both positively and negatively as an addiction to work, the compulsion or uncontrollable need to work incessantly.

Most employers value an employee that is very hardworking but as longer hours are put in, a person may begin to struggle at balancing personal and family needs with the increasing workload. Though generally accepted in society, there is surfacing evidence of the negative consequences of Workaholism. Research has suggested that workaholics report higher levels of stress and are subject to more health related problems than nonworkaholics. Workaholics tend to be of a perfectionist nature and are often unwilling to delegate work to others, which can sometimes slow progress and reduce efficiency in many jobs. These findings would suggest that workaholics might possess traits that might not be as desirable to employers as once thought.

The term Workaholism was coined decades ago because of the similarity in the patterns between an alcoholic and a workaholic. The most similar trait is that the behavior is continued despite the knowledge of how it is affecting the person physically or psychologically. There are generally two types of workaholics, the enthusiastic and the nonenthusiastic. Both types are defined as people who exhibit an excessively high work involvement. The difference is however, the enthusiastic workaholic actually enjoys a high rate of personal enjoyment and satisfaction gained from their work. In contrast, a nonenthusiastic workaholic doesn t receive the same satisfaction from their efforts.

There are three basic theories as to how people become workaholics. The first is the pure enjoyment and fulfillment that comes from the work itself, which would be consistent with the enthusiastic workaholic. The second, which would represent the nonenthusiastic workaholic, is defined as an uncontrollable urge to work and stay busy, even when little or no pleasure or satisfaction is derived from it. The third explanation for excessive work is rooted in a person s intense desire to receive the rewards or recognition that come from hard work. This explanation brushes on the addictive characteristics of Workaholism.

Whether a workaholic is driven to work for enjoyment, obsessive compulsion, or addiction one thing is clear. Time is a fixed resource and excessive work hours will necessarily detract from the time available to spend with family and friends in pursuit of leisure. It has been shown that Workaholism is often detrimental because it upsets the balance of work and personal time. As a result workaholics can experience a higher level of stress which would leave them more susceptible to stress-related illnesses and burn out. Workaholics also run a high failure rate of interpersonal relationships outside work, such as spousal and family relationships. Because most of a workaholic s time is spent performing at work they might experience a low satisfaction in the rest of their life, which can compound the problem by making them spend even more time at work.

Although these hypotheses are largely untested, it does emphasize the need for immediate research on the subject. Counseling Psychologists need an understanding of the relationship between Workaholism problems that might be associated with it.

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