A word about workaholism

If you had to choose between these two job applicants, whom would you pick?

  • Employee A, who works 16-hour days and weekends, is tethered to his laptop, suffers withdrawal when his cell lindaphone battery dies, and checks voice mails and e-mails every 30 minutes even while sitting on the beach in Hawaii? Or,

  • Employee B, who works diligently and conscientiously, is willing to put in extra if a true crisis develops, but shuts off her computer at 5 p.m. and spends the weekend with family and friends, never thinking about work?

The smart choice is Employee B. You’ll get more out of her (or him) in the long run.


Workaholism is as much an addiction as alcoholism. The similarities are striking:


  • An alcoholic usually starts off as a social drinker who enjoys getting a little buzz-on. A workaholic usually starts off as an ambitious employee, putting in a little overtime and enjoying the attention he gets.

  • The alcoholic tries to sneak drinks when she thinks no one is looking; the workaholic tries to sneak in work when he thinks he is alone.

  • Alcoholics try to control everything in their environment. So do workaholics. With them, the control is manifested by a lack of delegation.

  • A person in the throes of alcoholism becomes paranoid that everyone is trying to “do” him in. An employee in the throes of workaholism becomes paranoid that he is going to be fired if he lets up.

  • An alcoholic gives up everything — friends, family, and fun — for the bottle. A workaholic gives up everything — friends, family, and fun — for work.

The analogy goes on, but you get the idea.


The problem is this: People die from alcoholism. And people die from workaholism.


Long before they die, however, each of the diseases takes its toll at work: The alcoholic starts to miss work and his productivity declines. The workaholic gets so overloaded that he can’t get the work done. He may put in long hours, but those hours are not effectively utilized.


So, if you have a choice (and you always do), hire Employee B. But if you already have some Employee A’s on your staff, consider how you can stop enabling them in their addiction:

  • Make them go home.

  • Give them a realistic workload.

  • Don’t praise overtime; criticize it instead.

  • Reward the positive behaviors of working and living a balanced life.

Finally, look at your own behavior. If you are a workaholic, take steps to fix yourself. You’ll live a longer, happier life.

Until next time,

Linda Segall

Segall Enterprises: Writing and Editing Solutions



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