Many of my clients have heard the above quote of mine more times than they would like to admit. One of the values of having a career-maximizing coach is having an objective person who can observe behaviors about which the individual has become oblivious. Unfortunately, killing themselves with over work is a frequent concern of mine with clients. In the fall, I was interviewed about workaholism, which is a significant problem in our culture, and I took a deeper dive into the problem. Could you be a workaholic? Before you summarily reject this notion, let’s explore a bit. Even if your answer is “No!” this information could be valuable to someone you care about. A commonly held belief is that overwork is driven by money. It can be but often you see just the opposite. When someone is focused on income and success, they are often eager to be as efficient and focused on the end goal as possible. They will do what is necessary and move on to the next task, project, or opportunity. It’s important to differentiate between issues of success versus achievement. Achievement oriented people often have unrealistic standards for themselves. If they are not “doing” they are not achieving. Individuals desiring achievement are more prone to workaholism. However, if one’s success and need for high dollar accomplishments is driven by a belief that without high earning capacity, one is worthless, then it may lead to workaholism.
One the most consistent beliefs underlying workaholism is fear of failure. Additionally, fear of boredom, fear of laziness, and fear of self-discovery can be significant issues. Ironically, the more you use work as a way of avoiding feelings and issues, the more problematic they become. Face it, denial and avoidance ultimately will get you in the end. Whatever self-concept struggles you have can only be hidden by overwork just so long. When you don’t feel worthy or enough, you tend to fill it with SOMETHING, in this case, work. One of the questions I was asked in the interview was, “Is overwork a nature or nurture dilemma?” As is always true, the answer is not simple. Our genetic predispositions can play a significant role in workaholism and so can our environmental learned behavior. If your family of origin placed high value on achievement, it can set the groundwork for perfectionism. Perfectionism is a breeding ground for workaholism. Important here to identify the difference between excellence and perfectionism. Excellence leads to success, a sense of satisfaction, and moves you forward. Perfectionism, on the other hand, leads to failure, a sense of unworthiness, and keeps you stuck.
I was also asked if workaholism is as bad as alcohol or drug addiction. In that it effects relationships, mental health, and physical health, the parallels are similar. It may surprise you to know studies show that workaholics have distinct neurological and psychological profiles similar to those addicted to narcotics. Plus, in the United States, many people view overwork as a positive, almost a badge of courage. When you work in an environment that praises and sometimes rewards overwork, a perfect storm can brew.
Some recent studies reveal 30% of the general population are workaholics. The higher up the ladder women climb in the workplace, the higher probability they will show workaholic behaviors. Of individuals earning $150,00 to $199,000, 52% of women consider themselves workaholics but just 22% of men at this salary range identify this way. Additionally, women in our society are taught to please others. When you are dependent upon pleasing, it’s difficult to say “No”. If every task and project that is thrown your way is accepted, overwork is inevitable.
Statistics tell us that approximately 83% of health problems in the United States are related to stress. The stress of overwork will put anyone a at risk for problems:
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol
- High Triglycerides
- Gastrointestinal issues
- Heart disease
- Sleep issues
The adrenaline rush of being a workaholic creates such a high that people with a work addiction may be unable to stop the behavior on their own. When truly addicted to the behavior, even the negative effects on their physical and psychological well-being aren’t enough to stop. As with any addiction, professional help is required.
What are we to do? How can we impact a culture that seems to reward this behavior? There are other countries, such as Sweden and Denmark that now have a maximum of 48 hours a week that employees can work. They mandate vacations. But as more people work from home today, laws may not thwart the workaholic.
What if you began a paradigm shift? What if you began the process of seeing excessive overwork and workaholism as an insidious disease that will rob you of your health, happiness, relationships and career? It’s possible! I have worked with many clients who have begun to see this behavior as something they are paying far too high a price. They have unlearned these behaviors and transformed themselves.
The price you pay for workaholic behavior is so high! Like any negative behavior, managing these tendencies before they get out of hand is an important step. If you believe your work style is ultimately a career wrecker or burnout is on the horizon, let’s tackle it now. Let’s do a complementary 45-minute phone consultation to determine if together we can find solutions to manage your work style now! Email Kay@highheeledsuccess.com or call 513-561-4288 to get the ball rolling.