Thursday, March 1, 2012

Workaholism – The Socially Acceptable Addiction

When talk about addiction, what generally came to mind would be drugs, coffee and alcohol. It is an addiction when you have difficulty saying no to it. Instead, your mind is preoccupied with the thing or activity all the time. For a short time, I was addicted to golfing – for instance, I can play 36 hole of golf a day and can go on for another 9-hole of night golfing if I can have my way. So, I know exactly what I’m talking about.

But seriously, can anyone be addicted to work? Of course, it is absolutely possible.

However, a work addict seldom gets condemned. In a way, it’s one addiction that is socially acceptable. For instance, you would be excused when you missed a family function because you need to work late…again. Tell them any other reason, you’ll get a lecture for sure.

Bryan Robinson, PhD, one of the US’s leading researchers on the disorder and author of Chained to the Desk and other books on workaholism has this to say, “Yes, workaholism is an addiction, an obsessive-compulsive disorder, and it's not the same as working hard or putting in long hours."

The problem is since it’s socially acceptable, no one really cares about the danger of workaholism.

It was said in Japan, “death by overwork” caused 1000 deaths per year, nearly 5% of that country’s stroke and heart attack deaths in employees under age 60.

So, if work consumes you and destroys your personal life and death in the instance of Japan, is it worth being an addict?

I don’t think anyone wants to die prematurely due to work. But majority of us do not even know we are already an addict.

In Working Ourselves to Death, Diane Fassel describes several dozen characteristics of workaholics. Generally, the most common ones include:

Denial – the common excuse: “I need to provide for my family.”

Multiple addictions: if you study most workaholics, they have other addictions too such as food, cigarette, alcohol and etc.

Restlessness: some people simply can’t relax. They think about their work all the time even when they are with the family.

Obsessiveness: Some people tend to be obsessed with perfection. Everything must be done according to their expectations and consequently, no work is ever finished. And they also have problem with delegation. Think Steve Jobs.

Self-centeredness: Work addicts think too much about themselves and possess a sense of their own importance, sometimes in exaggeration.

Too much work like any addiction is bad for an individual. And having employees work long hours does not necessarily promise greater productivity for the company either.

Now, there is a difference between hard work and workaholism.

Bryan Robinson said it best, "Hard work put us on the moon and discovered vaccinations and built this country. But hard workers generally have some balance in their lives. They sit at their desks and think about skiing. The workaholic is on the ski slopes thinking about work."