Thursday, May 14, 2009

Does It Really Matter If You're a Workaholic?

With the tough economy, you don't hear many people complain about having jobs. This is surely due to the fact that those who are still employed are just so darned grateful to be bringing home a paycheck that it doesn't matter how many hours they work; they're not going to let any unhappy comment pass their lips. That's understandable.

But I also see a lot of people working themselves into the ground. They're on 24/7. They can't talk about anything but work, the deal they're working on, how they can't possibly take off this weekend because they've got work to do. I think it's great to be so passionate and enthused about your job, but at the same time, I think it's a very risky road. If you can't find a way to turn it off, if work is consuming your life, then you may be headed for burnout.

Are you a workaholic? Do you know the warning signs? According to Workaholics Anonymous, these are some of the signs you're a workaholic:

1. It is very difficult to relax. You often, if not always, feel the need to get just a few more tasks done before you can feel good about yourself and allow yourself to relax. When you do complete these tasks you find just a few more that you need to complete, and then a few more.... These uncontrollable desires often result in frantic, compulsive working. You are powerless to control this pattern.
2. You are so used to doing what you are expected to do that you are often unable to know what it is that you really want and need to do for yourself.
3. You often feel that you must complete certain tasks, even though you do not want to. You are too scared to stop.
4. You often feel resentment about having to complete tasks when you would rather relax or play. At these times you procrastinate, usually wallowing in self-pity and self-judgment. You cannot concentrate on the task at hand, and yet are too scared to give up the task for a moment and allow yourself the space you need.
5. Your sense of self-esteem is based largely on your perceptions of how others judge your performance at work and in other areas of your life.
6. You have an obsessive desire to understand everything in your life, including your every emotion. You cannot allow yourself to experience emotions that you do not understand, fearing your loss of control.
7. You judge yourself by your accomplishments and hence have the illusion that you must always be in the process of accomplishing something worthwhile in order to feel good about yourself.
8. You cannot sit down and just be.
9. You often go on intense work binges with the illusion that you need to get the praise of your fellow workers and bosses in order to feel OK.
10. You have the illusion that people will like you more if you appear more competent than you actually are.

Much of the recovery for workaholics mimics what you see for other addicts: Finding time for personal reflection; accepting who you are; asking for help; finding healthier substitutes for the addiction; and learning to live in the now.

Unfortunately, we live in a time when most of us consider ourselves so fortunate to have a job that we can't see cutting back. But consider this: If you really are going overboard,you could be putting your job (and your health) at risk because you cannot be the most effective for an employer if you don't have balance in your life.

Is there such a thing as working too much, or is the 24/7 job schedule just part of lives these days?


David Benjamin said...

Great topic and list you've put together. There is no question that many companies have asked more from their employees during this economic turmoil.

If you love your job, these added demands probably don't seem so bad. If you don't like your job, it might put you over the edge.

What is most important is to have a balance no matter what the situation. Trying to leave work at work may be easier said than done but important to do.

Anita said...

I went through a bad period about a year ago where I was just consumed by work...and I was miserable. But I couldn't seem to turn it off, no matter how many times my family said, "You're working too much!" It finally became a matter of not liking who I was becoming. Now I have parameters in place and if I go past them, I tell someone close to me, and then let them yell at me. :) It is very tough to turn it off when technology puts work at your fingertips 24/7.

David Benjamin said...

The 24/7 access has made my life more hectic, but I have balance. I also am single so... :)

Anita said...

I hear what you're saying about technology making life more hectic, even on vacations. I wrote about that issue here:

Ian said...

Anita, Interesting list, I only hit 3 out of 10 on the list.

With most of us having access to work at anytime & many of us have access to facebook, twitter & just our cellphones. It seems the work/life balance thing is blending togather. So yes, I think the 24/7 schedule will be just part of our lives.

Anita said...

There's a more extensive list on the W.A. site -- better make sure you don't hit more of those "signs" of workaholism!
I do think we all have to come up with a better way of "blending" our lives, and I think that will be the real challenge of making sure we control technology, and not the other way around.