Do you work hard or are you a 'workaholic'?

August 24, 2010, 3:13 pm Nadine Piat-Niski KBB

Are you tirelessly working yourself toward business success, or towards destruction?

Are you tirelessly working yourself toward business success or unwittingly working yourself towards destruction?

Success does not stop and start in the workplace, however based on your beliefs this may be the only place that you believe gives you worth and value or what you think you need in order to feel good about yourself.

There are times when working hard is required, absolutely, however if you are constantly pushing yourself and other areas of your life are starting to suffer then it may very well be time to question why you are placing so much time and energy into working so very hard.

Workaholism is an addiction, pure and simple, and is caused by a misconception that working hard will solve or effectively address your life or work challenges.

The Japanese call workaholism karoshi – “death by overwork”, here it is known as the “respectable” addiction - there is nothing shiny and desirable about it, especially when you find out you don’t know your children, nor your partner, or your health is on a steady decline - inevitably other areas of your life start to fall apart or never get a chance to develop.

Similar to alcoholism and other addictions, workaholism becomes a relationship with the addiction, in this case your work, which competes with or overrides other important relationships and aspect of your life.

Workaholism is primarily driven by escapism and avoidance, however adrenaline addiction, self-worth attached to net-worth, or self-worth attached to what you do, and various other conscious or subconscious emotional drivers may also be contributing factors.

At the core of workaholism is flight from emotion, the desire to hide rather than face the things in your life that might be causing you pain.

Avoidance of pain is our greatest motivator. If you are suffering from workaholism you are most likely avoiding pain, or areas of your past or present that presents emotional discomfort. Most often you will be running away from the very things in your life that you seek.

Addictions create distractions or ways to avoid underlying challenges or core needs that have not  been addressed or met. Working in such a way does not necessarily mean that you are more effective and producing results, it can be quite the opposite.

Workaholism can be a degenerating cycle and can really diminish the person’s performance and quality in life in general.

Could you be a workaholic?

1.   You are unable to switch off from work mode when you leave the office?

2.   Is work what you like to do best and talk about?

3.   When on holidays do you continue to be available and/or think about work for a large
      portion of the time?

4.   Have long hours hurt your family or other relationships?

5.   When exhausted are you relentless and continue to push yourself?

6.   Do you get annoyed if people ask you to stop working and do other activites?

7.   Do you have warm, connected and loving relationships?

8.   Are you able to communicate clearly and gracefully the things that are concerning you?

9.   Are you fixated on accomplishing things?

10. Are you fit and healthy – mentally, physically, emotionally, spiritually?

Why would someone work so hard and neglect other areas of their life?

•    Avoiding their emotional self

•    Distracting oneself from emotional hurt based on a past event/s that may stem back
•    many years

•    Believe that working relentlessly will make them more valuable or worthy

•    Attached to control

•    Fear of losing control

•    Fear of loneliness

•    Not wanting to address relationship struggles

•    Protecting themselves from rejection

•    Lack of self-esteem/self-worth

•    Fear of communicating

•    Fear of intimacy

•    Feel that they are not deserving of real joy


It is important to discern if you are putting in necessary long hours at work, or if you are addicted to it and a workaholic.

You might be expanding your business, dealing with unexpected challenges, short staffed, etc. when putting in extra time is unavoidable. For a workaholic there is no end to this, it just keeps on coming, there will always be something that needs urgent attention.

A workaholic will justify their behaviour or choices and will only stop when they are forced to do so – due to illness or a major event, even then they tend to remain connected to work.

How to start breaking the cycle
I am a coach and an advocate of seeking professional support - some people are able to make great change on their own, however many do not have the willpower and do exceptionally well with assistance, which gets to the core of the issue quickly through powerful introspection and new learning’s, and is followed through with action and accountability.

Some points to get you started:

1. Take time for your health across the board, e.g. your physical and emotional health.

2. Reprioritise the areas of your life that are important to you that are not being nurtured.

3. Review and create new goals, then break these goals in to small bite size pieces.

4. Schedule social interaction – you may need to force yourself to engage in social activities, lock in dates and a specific time. No loose plans allowed here.

5. Get out of the office and take breaks throughout the day, such as mini walks outside, connect with friends or your partner during lunch breaks (either face-to-face or by giving them a call), exercise, etc.

6. Set a curfew – commit to a time that you must leave the office, create a phone alarm/reminder with a recurring ring every 5 minutes for those of you most likely to ignore the first or second reminder.

7. Learn to endure some discomfort in conjunction with making changes to your current way of living. It may not be comfortable or easy at first. Keep focused, as time and continued diligence will bring increased ease.

Don’t wait for a major catastrophe to happen before you open your eyes. Addictions do not bring real joy and substance into your life.

Take some time to re-evaluate your business, health, relationships, finances, social interests and personal development – then do something about it.

Everyone can change the way they view and do life – you just need to see the value in doing so.