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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

Too connected: FTC eyes Facebook antitrust lawsuit

(BUSINESS NEWS) Following other antitrust hearings, we’re expecting to hear more about the FTC’s antitrust lawsuit against Facebook, soon.

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Facebook being crossed out by a stylus on a mobile device.

Facebook might be wishing it had kept the “dislike” button.

On September 15, the Wall Street Journal announced that the Federal Trade Commission was preparing a possible antitrust lawsuit against the social media titan. Although the FTC has not made an official decision on whether to pursue the case, sources familiar with the situation expect a determination will be made on the matter sometime before the end of 2020. Facebook and the FTC both declined to comment when asked about the story.

The news comes following a year-long investigation by the FTC that has looked into anti-competitive practices by the Menlo Park-based company. This past July, the United States House of Representatives held hearings in which they grilled the CEOs of Amazon, Apple, Google, and Facebook regarding their business practices. In August, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg also testified in front of the FTC as part of the department’s antitrust probe into the organization.

The FTC seems to be especially interested in Facebook’s past acquisitions of WhatsApp and Instagram, which they believe may have been done to stifle competition. In internal emails sent between Zuckerberg and Facebook’s former CFO David Ebersman back in 2012, the 36-year-old seemed worried that the apps could eventually pose a threat to the social media conglomerate.

“These businesses are nascent but the networks established, the brands are already meaningful, and if they grow to a large scale the could be very disruptive to us,” Zuckerberg wrote to Ebersman, “Given that we think our own valuation is fairly aggressive and that we’re vulnerable in mobile, I’m curious if we should consider going after one or two of them.”

When Ebersman asked him to clarify the benefits of the acquisitions, Zuckerberg stated the purchases would neutralize a competitor while improving Facebook.

“One way of looking at this is that what we’re really buying is time. Even if some new competitors springs up, buying Instagram, Path, Foursquare, etc. now will give us a year or more to integrate their dynamics before anyone can get close to their scale again.” Zuckerberg said.

This isn’t the first time the FTC has investigated Facebook either. Last year the agency fined the company $5 billion for the mishandling of user’s personal information, the biggest penalty imposed by the federal government against a technology company. As a part of the settlement with the FTC in that case, Facebook also promised more comprehensive oversight of user data.

If the FTC does pursue an antitrust suit against Facebook, it could end up forcing the social media giant to spin off some of the companies it has acquired or place restrictions on how it does business. Considering how long it will take to file the litigation and prove the case in a courtroom, however, it seems that Zuckerberg will once again be “buying time.”

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Business News

What you need to know about the historic TikTok deal (for now)

(BUSINESS NEWS) No one really knows what’s happening, but the TikTok deal’s impact on business, US-China relations, and the open internet could be huge.

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Male black hands holding app opening TikTok app.

So, maybe you’ve heard that Oracle and Walmart are buying TikTok for national security!

Um, not exactly.

Also, Trump banned TikTok!

Sort of? Maybe?

But then he said he approved the Oracle-Walmart-TikTok deal!

We guess?

The terms of the proposal seem to shift daily, if not hourly. The sheer number of contradictory statements from every player suggests no one really knows what’s going on.

Just one example: Trump said the deal included a $5 billion donation to a fund for education for American youth. TikTok parent ByteDance, said, “Say what now?”

Here’s what we think we know (as of this writing):

Oracle and Walmart would get a combined 20 percent stake in a new U.S.-based company called TikTok Global. Combine that with current US investors in China’s ByteDance, TikTok’s parent, that would give American interests 53 percent. European and other investors would have 11 percent. China would retain 36 percent. (On Saturday Trump said China would have no interests at all. But that does not jibe with the reporting on the deal.)

Oracle would host all user data on its cloud, where it is promising “security will be 100 percent” to keep data safe from China’s prying eyes. But reporting has differed on whether Oracle will get full access to TikTok’s code and AI algorithms. Without full control, skeptics say, Oracle could be little more than a hosting service, and potential security issues would remain unaddressed.

Walmart says they’re excited about their “potential investment and commercial agreements,” suggesting they may be exploring e-commerce opportunities in the app.

The US Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, which is overseen by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, still has to approve any deal.

As for the TikTok “ban” – which isn’t really a ban because current users can keep it – the Commerce Department postponed the deadline for kicking TikTok off U.S. app stores to September 27, to give time for the deal to be hammered out. Never mind that it’s still not clear whether the U.S. government has authority to do that. Unsurprisingly, ByteDance says it doesn’t in a lawsuit filed September 18.

Whatever happens with the whiplash of the deal’s particulars, there are bigger issues in play.

According to business news site Quartz, moving data storage to Oracle mirrors what companies like Apple have done in China: Appease the Chinese government by allowing all data hosting to be inside China. A similar move could “mark the US, too, shifting from a more laissez-faire approach to user data, to a more sovereign one,” says China tech reporter Jane Li.

More obvious: Corporate sales and mergers are now part of the parrying between the U.S. and China, which adds a whole new playing field for negotiations among businesses.

In the meantime, TikTokkers keep TikTokking. White suburban moms continue to lip sync to rap songs in their kitchens. Gen Z continues to make fun of the president – and pretty much everything else.

And downloads of the app have skyrocketed.

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Business News

Hobby Lobby increases minimum wage, but how much is just to save face?

(BUSINESS NEWS) Are their efforts to raise their minimum wage to $17/hour sincere, or more about saving face after bungling pandemic concerns?

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Hobby Lobby storefront

The arts-and-crafts chain Hobby Lobby announced this week that they will be raising their minimum full-time wage to $17/hour starting October 1st. This decision makes them the latest big retailer to raise wages during the pandemic (Target raised their minimum wage to $15/hour about three months ago, and Walmart and Amazon have temporarily raised wages). The current minimum wage for Hobby Lobby employees is $15/hour, which was implemented in 2014.

While a $17 minimum wage is a big statement for the company (even a $15 minimum wage cannot be agreed upon on the federal level) – and it is no doubt a coveted wage for the majority of the working class – it’s difficult to not see this move as an attempt to regain public support of the company.

When the pandemic first began, Hobby Lobby – with more than 900 stores and 43,000 employees nationwide – refused to close their stores despite being deemed a nonessential business (subsequently, a Dallas judge accused the company of endangering public health).

In April, Hobby Lobby furloughed almost all store employees and the majority of corporate and distribution employees without notice. They also ended emergency leave pay and suspended the use of company-provided paid time off benefits for employees during the furloughs – a decision that was widely criticized by the public, although the company claims the reason for this was so that employees would be able to take full advantage of government handouts during their furlough.

However, the furloughs are not Hobby Lobby’s first moment under fire. The Oklahoma-based Christian company won a 2014 Supreme Court case – the same year they initially raised their minimum wage – that granted them the right to deny their female employees insurance coverage for contraceptives.

Also, Hobby Lobby settled a federal complaint in 2017 that accused them of purchasing upwards of 5,000 looted ancient Iraqi artifacts, smuggled through the United Arab Emirates and Israel – which is simultaneously strange, exploitative, and highly controversial.

Why does this all matter? While raising their minimum wage to $17 should be regarded as a step in the right direction regarding the overall treatment of employees (and, hopefully, $17 becomes the new standard), Hobby Lobby is not without reason to seek favorable public opinion, especially during a pandemic. Yes, we should be quick to condone the action of increasing minimum wage, but perhaps be a little skeptical when deeming a company “good” or “bad”.

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