A lot of people work long hours.
Some people consider this a ‘normal’ part of life and enjoy it. Others only do it out of necessity, and can’t wait to get off the clock to enjoy their free time.
But there are also other people who are different from both of these common groups.
Some people actually choose to work longer and harder hours—almost as if they need to do it—despite the fact that doing so doesn’t seem to make them any happier or bring them any additional satisfaction.
Here’s the thing.
Some people are just hard workers—and some people legitimately enjoy their work.
But there’s also another category to consider.
Yes—as it turns out, this is a real thing.
Some people may actually be addicted to work.
But why? And what could possibly cause such a thing?
These are great questions.
And in this post, we’re going to get to the bottom of it.
Let’s dive deep and talk about it.
The Basics: What Is Workaholism?
According to an article on the subject that was published by the American Psychological Association, workaholism is a term that was coined back in 1971 by a psychologist and minister named Wayne Oates.
He described workaholism as such:
“The compulsion or the uncontrollable need to work incessantly.”
Since then, other researchers have modified and added to this definition.
Workaholism has been described as an addiction, a pathology, and even a ‘syndrome’ at various different points throughout history.
Basically, it’s believed that workaholics work to cope with a range of negative emotions.
One thing that workaholism isn’t is the same as just working a lot of hours. It’s also true that workaholism is different from being an ‘engaged worker.’
For example—if you work a lot of long hours, but do so because you love your work and are interested in it, that wouldn’t be the same as workaholism.
That would be defined as being ‘an engaged worker.’
People can still work a lot of hours without being a workaholic—so there are some specific criteria that need to be looked at in order for someone’s specific ‘condition’ to be labeled as ‘official workaholism.’
Here are some commonalities that seem to correlate strongly with the presence of workaholism:
- The individual feels compelled to work due to internal pressures
- The individual has persistent thoughts about work when they’re not working
- The individual works beyond what is reasonably expected of a worker in their position, despite the potential for negative consequences
One interesting thing to note is that some people argue that workaholism is actually a positive thing to experience.
But it’s also true that this argument often conflates ‘workaholism’ with ‘being passionate about your work.’
But these are different things.
For example—the fact that someone is ‘compelled’ to work longer and harder hours could potentially correlate with greater monetary success and workplace achievement.
And these things could end up having farther-reaching positive implications than short-term negatives (for example, marital issues resulting from the person ‘working too much’).
But this is a hotly debated topic—and not everyone agrees that workaholism is actually something that produces positive results in the long term.
It seems obvious that the ‘why’ behind the condition may actually be more important than the ‘what’ in this case.
And that’s really what the majority of this conversation hinges on.
Another interesting thing to note is that there has been some considerable research done to examine the Big Five personality traits’ relationship to workaholism—and there were definitely some correlations.
As it turns out, people who are high in conscientiousness, extraversion, neuroticism, and openness seem to be more likely to be workaholics.
Some people argue that the link between personality traits and workaholism is weak, however—thus, there’s still some work to be done on these correlations before any hard and fast conclusions can be drawn.
Another interesting thing to note is that workaholism is generally associated with long-term negative life outcomes.
This stands in stark contrast to ‘work engagement,’ which is associated with long-term positive life outcomes.
In other words—it seems that, while it may be tempting to think of workaholism as a positive trait—the evidence goes to show that true workaholism actually ends up being a detriment to the individual in the long run, as opposed to being a benefit.
It’s definitely an interesting thing to study.
But in real life—it’s definitely something to potentially be concerned about.