There is a difference between being a hard worker and being a workaholic. If you think the latter might be true of yourself, take a peek at these key differences between the two so you can make some changes sooner than later.
Whether you’re saving up for a new house, a big trip or your child’s education, you have all sorts of reasons to work hard. But how do you know when you’ve crossed the line from working hard to always working? In his book Chained to the Desk: A Guidebook for Workaholics, Their Partners and Children, and the Clinicians Who Treat Them, Bryan E. Robinson, Ph.D., discusses how to spot the difference and what you can do to change the situation.
Workaholics vs. healthy workers
Since we all work in one capacity or another, determining whether you have cause for alarm can seem confusing. But Robinson points out a few key differences between workaholics and healthy workers that can help you determine where you stand:
- Workaholics tend to separate themselves from others and prefer to work alone because their egos are attached to the details of their work. Healthy workers, on the other hand, can see the bigger picture and work productively with others toward a common goal.
- Workaholics tend to create or look for work they can do, whereas healthy workers might work long hours and enjoy their work, but when that work has been completed efficiently, they can be completely present in other parts of life.
- At certain times (such as after being awarded a promotion or when starting a new company), healthy workers can become consumed by their work and career goals for a period, and this temporary focus is OK. But workaholics operate in this way constantly, and they consistently use their jobs as an escape from regular life.
- Workaholics have a psychological hunger to work and to keep working, and they are unable to switch off that need no matter where they are or what they are doing. A healthy worker might have to commit to just as many hours but seeks out breaks from work when possible.
- Workaholics might use work as a defense against human relationships, whereas healthy workers seek out social time with friends and family.
As with many human issues, being a workaholic isn’t a case of you are or you aren’t. The degree to which a person is driven by his or her work happens on a scale, and how mild or serious the situation is varies from person to person. To figure out where you stand, Robinson recommends taking the Work Addiction Risk Test (WART). It will help you determine whether you’re a workaholic at all, and if so, how severe it is.
Find out how to quit being a workaholic >>
What being a workaholic means
You may have looked through the above points, noticed you have some workaholic traits, and now you’re wondering, “OK, so maybe I work a lot. What’s wrong with that?” Although there is nothing wrong with working hard and enjoying what you do, seeking emotional satisfaction entirely from your job can have detrimental effects on many aspects of your life. You can experience physical symptoms, such as fatigue and ulcers, and emotional side effects, such as devaluing your past successes and current efforts in a way that is upsetting and damaging to both you and those around you. In the wake of work obsession, loved ones can feel lonely, undervalued and ignored, and relationships can crumble.
Robinson stresses that it isn’t about sacrificing your dedication to and passion for your career; it’s about finding a balance wherein you can give both your work life and your home life the attention each one deserves. To find out more about achieving that balance, check out Robinson’s book, Chained to the Desk (amazon.com, $27).