Below if the transcript of Amy E. Botkin’s training and development presentation on Workaholism for Business Communications ISU – Fall 1992.
I’m here to discuss something we all do, or will do sometime in the near future. I’ll give you a clue to see if you can guess. It’s a 4 letter word, ends in k, it can be very good for some people and it can turn boring, monotonous and simply not challenging for others. Do you know the word I’m getting at? Don’t think too hard!
Soon everyone in this room will enter the working world. The future engineers, educators, journalists, managers, artists and so on in this room will all have demanding positions. How is it that some people are able to handle the workload while others adopt bad habits and unhealthy work styles to cope with their job?
In this training and development session, I will discuss what workaholism is, compare the work style of a healthy worker with that of a workaholic, the significance of workaholism on the individual and the workplace, and general guidelines which may help you work with a workaholic.
Workaholism is a progressive disease in which a person is addicted to the process of working. In a nutshell: a workaholic’s life is dominated by his or her job. How many of you know a workaholic? I have a friend who works all the time. Please help me to welcome my helpers.
My visuals were Barbie…
Action: Following an interview with a prospective client, Barbie blacked out in her office and was forced to spend a few days in the hospital. The doctors told her she had a minor heart problem and she should take a vacation to relax, yet she blew the doctor’s orders off. Barbie’s life revolves around her work. Barbie does not know how to relax, as she is a workaholic. A definite symptom of a workaholic is the denial. Barbie flatly denies she has a problem with work. She submitted her proposal the next morning, after working well into the evening.
Action: Following an interview with a prospective client, Ken powered walked to his office and left work early so he could head to the beach with his family. He recently had his annual physical from this regular doctor, which showed he continues to maintain great health. The doctor recommended that Ken may want to do more walking, just to keep his heart healthy. Ken’s life revolves around his work and his family. Ken loves to relax and hang out with his friends. Ken is looking forward to working with his new client and has plans to submit his proposal next week.
and Ken dolls…
The main difference in work styles between Barbie and Ken is that Barbie’s work is out of control. She is unable to relax, take time for herself or give time to her family. Her work is her identity.
Ken, on the other hand, goes to work to provide for his family and to pay his bills. Ken enjoys working and he loves his profession. He fills discretionary time with recreation, volunteering, attending community functions or with his family and friends.
Workaholism can lead to personal health problems as well as inefficiencies in the workplace. Workaholics get burned out and tired from their frantic pace. Tired workers make mistakes, spend extra time redoing the mistakes and have a higher incidence of accidents and illnesses. Studies reveal that 40 hour work week often brings higher productivity than a 60 hour work week.
Chronic fatigue, headaches, backaches, difficulty sleeping, stomach problems and heart problems are all symptoms common in workaholics. There are often merely disregarded as stress-related. The fact is a workaholic’s body and mind are on overload and compounded with the inability to relax, devastating results are destined to happen. Workaholism can be fatal if not prevented or treated timely.
A workaholic’s work style can create obstacles throughout the company. There is a good possibility that communication problems with co-workers and clients will occur. For example, since workaholics often exhibit peaks and valleys in job performance, co-workers can get mixed messages. When a workaholic is “up” it is good for other co-workers. When she is “down” confusion and miscommunication occur. A healthy worker has strong communication skills.
A workaholic becomes obsessed about their job while not taking into account the whole picture behind their work. This can be very dysfunctional in the workplace as the worker simply cannot be obsessive about a client or a particular account for example. A healthy worker is able to focus on more than one project at a time.
A workaholic may constantly want to revise something in an attempt to make it perfect. A perfectionist is often inconsistent in his or her productivity. They fluctuate between intense working and procrastination. A healthy worker finds it best to level or balance out performance.
Often a workaholic needs to be in control in individual work as well as group work. Since many companies rely on innovative teamwork, the workaholic is not a good team player and can hamper the group’s goals. Teamwork is an essential component of today’s modern workforce. Problems related to workaholism can lead to inefficiencies in a company.
- Prefer jobs with important titles and the opportunity to control others
- Has an obsessive nature about work
- Needs to be in control
- Makes endless lists of things to do
- Exaggerates achievements and rarely mention failures
- Are often perfectionists
- Appear to work twice as hard as everyone else
- May have other addictions to money, food or relationships
- Cannot say “no” to excessive demands for fear of disapproval
- Constantly seeks approval which they receive through work (needs to please others)
- Has either overinflated or under inflated perception of self
- Has a hard time seeing themselves honestly and accepting who they are
- Operates in constant crisis mode, usually because their schedule is more than they can handle
- Inability to relax, workaholics cannot just sit and be
- Puts in endless hours, foregoes vacations and puts everything else on hold for the sake of work
- Loses touch with families and friends
- Denies the problem / disease
- Learn your company’s mission statement. Understand the objectives related to achieving it and stay focused.
- Gain co-workers’ trusts from the beginning. Take charge of your work and get it done promptly.
- Do just the opposite of what a workaholic does. Arrive at work on time and leave when the time is right.
- Don’t get caught up in the “frantic” mode of work. Make order out of the chaos.
- Creatively adapt to the workaholic’s work patterns. Study the person’s style and habits, and learn what triggers affect their pace of work.
- Be respectful and helpful to all co-workers ~ Be a Team Player
- Solve problems with flexibility and learn from the situation
“When your work speaks for itself, don’t interrupt.” ~ Henry J. Kaiser
In conclusion, workaholism is damaging to individuals, their relationships and their workplaces. It leads to inefficiencies in the work place and can cost employers time and money. The most valuable asset a worker carries is that of serenity of mind and a healthy physical presence. If we work ourselves to death at the expense of health and mental well-being, we will ultimately fail. A healthy company encourages their workers to get the rest, recreation, exercise and self-reflective time necessary in order to be effective and productive players.
I wish you all good luck in the future and encourage you to take your work seriously, yet at the same time enjoy your life to its fullest.
If you suspect you may be a workaholic, your responses to the following 20 statements will help you determine what course of action to take. How often do each of the following statements apply to you? Give yourself: 0 points for never; 1 point for rarely; 2 points for occasionally; 3 points for often. Then add your points and refer to the scoring ranges at the bottom.
- I find myself irritated or frustrated by situations I think I should be able to handle
- I get overly involved emotionally with my clients
- I overschedule appointments
- I have chronic physical ailments
- My spouse/partner, children and friends complain that I’m never home or able to do things with them
- I feel I have so much to do that I’ll never get to all of it
- I feel successful but not happy
- The costs of putting all my energy into my work outweigh the benefits
- I get anxious and depressed and wish I could leave the business, but I know I can’t
- I must keep driving myself to avoid disaster
- I feel edgy, anxious, or guilty when I’m not working
- I believe that if I don’t keep up the pace, I won’t survive
- I feel tire—nearly exhausted—all the time
- Anything less than perfection is failure
- I work more than ten hours per day, six or seven days a week
- I’m preoccupied with work-related concerns
- I keep telling myself that I’ll slow down and take some time off
- Work comes first in my life
- I feel as if something is wrong, but I don’t know what it is
- I have trouble falling asleep at night because I’m thinking about work
Scores: 1-20: workaholism may not be a problem for you, but you may want to ask the people who know you well whether they agree with you assessments. 21-50: you could be in the beginning or even the middle stages of workaholism. Get a physical checkup and implement some changes. 51-60: You’re most likely under a great deal of stress and have several physical, mental, and emotional symptoms. Take immediate steps to get professional help.