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Workaholism: the good, the bad, the warning signs

There are warning signs of workaholism, but there is a grey area wherein workaholism can be good, but it can also be horribly bad. This is about finding the middle ground.

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Workaholics - positive or negative?

Workaholics - positive or negative?

Defining workaholism

The term “workaholic” gets thrown around all the time. If you work late, someone calls you a workaholic. If you decide to get a little ahead in the evening while at home, someone accuses you of being a workaholic. Even if you say no to a lunch invite because you want to finish a project, you get labeled. And in most cases, being labeled a workaholic is seen as an insult. However, its negative connotation isn’t necessarily accurate, at least it shouldn’t always be.

What a “workaholic” IS NOT

The first step to defining it is to identify what its not. Just because you’re motivated, persistent, dedicated, productive, or have a strong work ethic doesn’t mean you’re a workaholic. And when coworkers, friends, or even family members make snide comments, comments that are designed to guilt you into stopping your work so they can have your immediate attention, it’s rarely helpful and can actually put a strain on both professional and personal relationships. It can even cause you to have feelings of guilt any time you have to work late on a project or if you want to check your work email over the weekend. And let’s be honest; that’s not a healthy, productive professional mindset to foster if you’re looking to advance in your career or chosen industry.

What a “workaholic” IS

Now that we’ve established that working hard at your job and being good at it doesn’t make you a workaholic, it’s time to figure out what it really means. The basic dictionary definition states that a workaholic is “a person who works compulsively at the expense of other pursuits.”

George Watson, however, may sum it up best when he said, “In the past, people overworked, but commonly because they were forced by poverty or impelled by a sense of duty. Now work can be a neurotic addiction. ‘Workaholic’ is a 20th-century word, one suspects, because it is a 20th-century type.” These two definitions seem to agree that a workaholic can be compulsive, neurotic, and have an addictive personality. And as with everything else in life, any extreme can be dangerous, even how much you work.

Distinguishing hard work from workaholism

It’s important to make the distinction between a hard, dedicated worker and a workaholic. A workaholic never “clocks out.” They are emotionally, mentally, and physically invested twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. Even if they aren’t at an office, workaholics minds and thoughts revolve around work issues and responsibilities. In the mind of a workaholic, nothing will be as satisfying as working–not relationships, hobbies, or even personal relaxation time. Work is the number one priority without exception. Sometimes the motivation is having and maintaining control, even if the workaholic isn’t aware of that obsessive internal need.

A study published by three Wayne State University students explored the personality of workaholics. This study found that narcissism is closely related to workaholism, as is perfectionism and compulsion (Clark, Lelchook, and Taylor, 2010). Dr. Timothy Pychyl explored this study on the Psychology Today blog. He said, “These ‘workaholics’ are people who work to the exclusion of other life activities, are consumed with thoughts and feelings about work and often do more than is expected at work. Certainly, their lives are not models of ‘balance.’” Again, extremes in any situation have the potential to become a habitual, harmful behavior.

When workaholism is good

Being a workaholic isn’t necessarily always bad. You can use your workaholic tendencies to pull all-nighters to finish big projects on time or even before the deadline. Being known as a workaholic can actually increase your clientele and improve your professional reputation. When clients and customers know you work hard and you’re willing to work around-the-clock for them, they know you’re worth your fees.

When your business is still new and your brand development is still in its infancy, being a workaholic may be necessary and will usually be incredibly beneficial because you’ll be able to build your clientele quickly, efficiently, and consistently. And if you see money problems in your future, money problems that would halt the growth of your company, getting many clients upfront can provide you with the necessary means for professional expansion.

Having your mind always pondering work-related solutions or better ways to streamline your daily responsibilities and tasks can help you get right to work once you get to the office in the morning. You won’t have to spend valuable time within regular and accepted business hours contemplating and fixing an issue, planning your work day, and prioritizing your daily tasks. A truly dedicated workaholic can ultimately become more productive once their strong, uninterrupted focus. The truth is, you, as a workaholic, have the potential to get more done during the workday than many other business professionals, but it also can come with a steep price to pay and it can’t last forever.

When it poses a problem

While, as a workaholic, your professional life will soar, you may find your personal life in shambles. When you choose work over forming and maintaining close, important relationships—including your significant other, children, friends, and family members—these relationships can slowly crumble. Your loved ones may begin to feel bitter toward you and your profession because you show what’s most important with each dinner invitation you turn down or how many dance recitals or soccer games you miss because you’re working. Your loved ones will notice your priorities. And if they’re not one of them, those relationships will deteriorate. Even though you’re working to provide them with more life opportunities, your absence can still be hurtful.

Being a workaholic means that you leave no time for yourself to relax, rejuvenate, and recuperate. When this happens, you’ll run yourself ragged and you will eventually reach burnout. And when that happens, your productivity will crash along with it. Everyone needs some time away from the office and away from professional duties, even if it’s just for a day or two. Your health is important. Working excessively will create extreme stress in your life and that can showcase itself in many ways, including sickness, anxiety, and mental and emotional breakdowns.

Warning signs of workaholism

  • If you’re unsure if you have unhealthy work habits, take a look at the following list and see if you can relate to any of them.
  • Refusal or resistance to delegating your responsibilities; you’d rather do everything yourself without help from anyone else.
  • Inability to separate work from personal life. An example: trying a new hobby, but having an insatiable urge to start a new business while involving your new hobby.
  • Feelings of self-worth directly related to professional accomplishments.
  • The constant need to do work-related tasks and the feeling of guilt if you miss work opportunities away from the office.
  • Always looking for new ways to gain control or power.

How to find the middle ground

If you’re a workaholic, it’s important to find the middle ground. Finding the middle ground can give you the sense of professional accomplishment you desire and the personal non-work life that brings happiness and joy. First, take some time to honestly evaluate yourself and your work habits. Write out your personal and professional goals and compare them side by side. This visualization can help you remember to search for balance, as a balanced life is a happy life.

Also, set aside a few hours each day, preferably when you’re at home with your family or out with friends that you won’t do anything work-related. While you may not be able to stop your mind from working right away, changing your physical surroundings and having a goal in mind is a great place to begin finding that balance. When you go home in the evening, leave work at work. Dedicate that time to your family, yourself, and your hobbies. It will take a little time to train yourself, but you can learn how to separate those two important sides of your life.

The next thing you can do is start delegating the smaller of your responsibilities to a trusted employee. Start small and then you can give more responsibilities to others. This will help you have more time to spend with your loved ones and time for you to rest and relax every once in a while. It can also help lessen your stress levels. If you feel a dip in your self-esteem and self-worth as you try to make this major adjustment, consider visiting with a counselor. The counselor will be able to give you a new insight into your situation. With a new perspective, it can become easier to move forward and find the right equilibrium for your life.

Reference: Clark, M.A., Lelchook, A.M., & Taylor, M.L. (2010). Beyond the Big Five: How narcissism, perfectionism, and dispositional affect relate to workaholism. Personality and Individual Differences, 48, 786-791.

The American Genius Staff Writer: Charlene Jimenez earned her Master's Degree in Arts and Culture with a Creative Writing concentration from the University of Denver after earning her Bachelor's Degree in English from Brigham Young University in Idaho. Jimenez's column is dedicated to business and technology tips, trends and best practices for entrepreneurs and small business professionals.

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4 Comments

4 Comments

  1. AlexDAllison

    June 11, 2012 at 8:42 am

    @sociallyelevate 🙂 Have a good week. I know you know a bit about being a workaholic…

    • sociallyelevate

      June 11, 2012 at 8:45 am

      @AlexDAllison I think that is the pot calling the kettle black from what I have heard!;-) Have an awesome day!

      • AlexDAllison

        June 11, 2012 at 3:26 pm

        @sociallyelevate shhhh.. 🙂 Thanks. Back at ya!

  2. Pingback: Does Being A Write-A-Holic Improve Or Hinder Productivity? | Editorial Stand Blog

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Business News

Employers: Lacking remote work options may cause you to lose employees

(BUSINESS NEWS) As a vaccine gets closer to reality, employees are making their remote work preferences known – companies may miss out if they don’t keep up.

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Black man doing remote work at an in-home desk and laptop setup while talking on the phone.

COVID-19 transformed the workplace by leveraging the home office. Working from home isn’t easy, but I feel privileged to have the opportunity. Not everyone has that luxury. As promises of an effective vaccine suggest an end to the pandemic, it’s time to think about the future of remote work. Owl Labs recently released its 4th annual State of Remote Work. This information can help business leaders support workers by understanding trends in remote work.

How do employees feel about remote work?

Obviously, the pandemic is the force behind the push to telecommute. According to Owl Labs’ survey, 70% of full-time workers are working from home. Working remotely saves workers 40 minutes every day on their commute. The survey reports that people are saving about $500 each month by working from home. Working from home is keeping people from getting sick, but it’s also adding to their quality of life. Here are a few of the other findings:

  • 77% of respondents agree that working from home after Covid-19 would make them happier
  • 1 in 2 people won’t return to jobs that don’t offer remote work after Covid-19
  • Almost 25% of employees are willing to take a pay cut to work remotely some or all the time
  • 1 in 2 people would move if they could work from home all or most of the time

To retain top talent, employers may need to rethink their attitudes about remote work

Before COVID-19, many employers were concerned about productivity from remote workers. The attitude seems to be that if you’re not in the office, you won’t be as focused. The Owl Labs’ survey found that 75% of the respondents were the same or more productive from home under COVID-19. Granted, 44% of the respondents didn’t want to get dressed up for video meetings, but they were still productive. One in 5 people worked more while working from home.

Remote work may decline as the pandemic ends, but workers want that flexibility. Employers who aren’t aware of what their workers need will lose out to other organizations. Remote work can increase diversity and give you options to retain your best team members. Keep up with the changing landscape of work to understand how to support your employees.

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Business News

Inflation is coming to big brand goods, how small business can keep up

(BUSINESS NEWS) Big brands providing everyday goods are raising prices—take note, smaller producers, to determine if you need to follow suit for inflation.

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Woman holding a package of toilet paper, affected by inflation.

Procter & Gamble and Coca-Cola are two of the mega-corporations that have said they are raising prices by September due to their own rising commodity costs. Kimberly-Clark has also warned of a “mid-to-high single digit” percentage price hikes to mitigate their own inflated costs in getting commodities.

Coca-Cola has already started to raise prices. Overall, prices are starting to go up. The Associated Press reports that it is beginning to happen, “U.S. consumer prices increased a sharp 0.6% in March, the biggest uptick since 2012, while inflation over the past year jumped 2.6%.”

Supply chains, along with so many things, got all kinds of jacked up in 2020, and we are continuing to see the effects as prices creep or sometimes shoot upward. With manufacturing and shipping prices rising, along with the costs of pulp and oil-related products, P&G, Kimberly-Clark, and Coca-Cola have stated they are hiking the prices of their popular, everyday items, things in fairly universal, high demand. Think diapers, feminine products, shampoo, paper products, and of course, food and beverages. Hopefully consumers can keep up, and hopefully small businesses are not affected too badly in the fallout.

The price hikes will initially affect the retailers buying the goods, but it stands to reason the consumers will feel the hit shortly thereafter. CBS News reported “Most retailers will pass on the higher costs to consumers, who might not even notice the difference because of the savvy methods deployed by these companies.” Demand for the big brands went up during the pandemic, even though some goods already saw early and continued upticks in pricing—toilet paper, for example.

Bloomberg adds, “P&G, whose lineup of brands also includes Charmin and Tide, is trying to navigate the waning stages of the pandemic, which had given it a boost as quarantined consumers stocked up on toilet paper and other household supplies. Wall Street is watching for signs of slowing demand as vaccinations increase and consumer behavior begins to normalize.”

As vaccine rates go up, and things move more and more toward fully opening, demand will continue to increase. However, commodity costs are rising, ports, highways and airports are more congested, and shipping prices are also rising. While the big brands and big retailers should be able to ride out the rising tide of increased costs, smaller producers need to pay attention and evaluate their own production and shipping costs. Smaller retailers need to decide who will bear the brunt when the big brands start charging them more. Will the smaller businesses be able to pass on the cost hikes to their customers?

It behooves the smaller guys to stay tuned in to what the big companies are doing, particularly with inflation. If P&G, Kimberly-Clark, and Coca-Cola are groaning about their costs, odds are it will be painful to the smaller businesses. It’s time to evaluate production methods, materials, and supply chains again. Buckle your seat belts; we’re in for some turbulence.

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Business News

The 7 deadly sins of technical interviews

(TECH NEWS) When you’re preparing for technical interviews, there are a number of things to consider, including these 7 tips of what NOT to do.

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Woman seated across from three interviewers for technical interviews

The economic world has never before been so mismatched. In October of 2019 I was let go from my Oil & Gas position. Through no fault of my own, I might add. The downturn for oil started in the summer of that year and a financial impact from other countries contributed to the beginning of a major downturn for the industry. Thousands of professionals lost their jobs in probably the worst downturn O&G has scene ever. Then of course we had a global pandemic to contend with.

During the ensuing 16 months of part-time work, I not only worked as a Wal-Mart employee (don’t ask!), but also a maid, a bartender, a writer, a hawker, and pretty much anything that would allow me to survive to the next paycheck. I’ll be giving back to friends for their generosity too for a while to come. Nothing I did professionally was making any headway so just like thousands of other people on the planet I was stuck trying to find employment while being drowned in bills.

After hundreds of applications, I do not exaggerate, I was able to land a number of professional interviews. Unfortunately, I only received limited interviews because of my advanced degrees. The number of times I heard that I was over-qualified would have made a nun curse.

During these interviews however, I remembered a great deal about good practices. An article published in Smashing Magazine actually categorized the 7 worst things you can do in technical interviews. Overall, they hit the nail on the head.

  1. Not Communicating Effectively: This is surefire way to not get a job. You have to know how to communicate to get anything done.
  2. Not Admitting when you don’t know the Answer: If you get caught not knowing some information, just admit that you don’t know and demonstrate that you know how to learn it. Or that you know where to find the correct information. If you lie and they figure it out, you’re screwed.
  3. Cramming the night before an interview: This is a surefire way to tire yourself out and be in worse shape than if you hadn’t crammed at all, remain balanced.
  4. Memorizing code for algorithms & Data Structures: You have no real clue about what you’re going to be asked. Filling your head with useless information right before technical interviews that could destroy your chances of answering something effectively.
  5. Overlooking the “Cultural Fit” Interview: Technical interviewers almost all come from a background of doing it themselves. This being said, they are typically not really looking for your full technical knowledge background, that’s what your resume is for. They want to know if they’ll want to spend most of their week with you, or whether you can handle stressful situations and fast paced changes. Having someone who is extremely technical but who can’t actually handle a social situation is almost always worse.
  6. Starting with the Optimized Solution: Always starting off with the optimized solution can show a very structured and inflexible mind. Show off your versatility, not just that you get straight to the point.
  7. Overlooking Programming Foundations: Instead of going off on fancy things, start with the basics – if they start asking about more advanced thins then that’s the opener for you to get creative. If you just jump over the basics they wont know where your base is.

These 7 shortfalls of technical interviewees are well established. They each come from well-known interview practices. Knowing how to communicate effectively is a must, no matter what job you’re interviewing for. Taking time to relax and stay calm before an interview and not cramming your brain full of information you may have no idea is going to be talked about. It’s a good list for technical interviews to be sure.

While it is a broader perspective, there are a few more points of information in the article itself.

The thing I always try and remember in any interview, whatever it be for a CEO or for McDonalds, I have a few rules to keep in mind. Not that they always got me what I wanted but it’s something to start with for those of you reentering the work force for whatever reason:

  • Be yourself: If your main goal is to hide character flaws, then ultimately one mistake could give them a bad impression. If you go into the meeting being yourself, you can at least be truthful on your strong or weak points to ensure best fit.
  • Be prepared: You know yourself, or at least I’d hope so. You know whether its best for you to study the week before or the night before technical interviews. Make sure you know the position you’re interviewing for and the company itself. You don’t have to memorize everything but you need to be prepared.
  • Be calm: You might be the nervous sort who has to pace on phone interviews. Well, if you are, just keep that in mind. I know for a fact that those interviews that I took on the phone without video, I paced around my room continuously. Whatever you need to do to appear calm and coordinated, do it.
  • Be observant: Reading the room is an essential skill for anyone trying to get a job. You could be blabbing the secrets of becoming a millionaire to someone who just doesn’t want to hear it. You wouldn’t get hired. You have to be able to know what’s going on around you.

As the world is, finding job is just a difficult process. You have to remember to not give up. That is the only thing that will stop you, quitting. Use any and all connections that you’ve made to keep moving forward. Don’t hesitate to use social media either. It’s there for a reason. Good luck!

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