Working 9 to 5...or 8...or 10

**Blog repost** 

Years ago I read an article found in Canadian Business magazine entitled, "Surefire Ways to Spot a Workaholic" (Laura Cameron). Here, the author discusses the interesting distinction between a person who is a work addict versus someone who just works a lot. This seems like a very fine and blurry line! It's as relevant today as it was then, so I'm reposting my blog post.

One of the individuals interviewed for this article spoke about the mentality that exists in our North American society, where employees who work excessively are congratulated and rewarded for being more involved and dedicated. As well, a study was referenced that was conducted by psychology researchers at Wayne State University in Detroit. They wanted to find out if particular personality traits could link one to 'workaholism' and were interested in seeing if further identifying these traits would be useful to managers in determining whether an employee is fuelled by "passion" or by "self-centered compulsion'. Interestingly, this study showed that many of the characteristics exhibited by participants with workaholic tendencies were not conducive to productive work habits. Some workaholics expect perfection of both themselves and of others, as well as being poor at delegation, because sharing the workload poses a problem for them. Compulsive work habits are not necessarily effective work habits. Spending unnecessary time trying to produce perfect work, or possibly creating more work than is actually required, may not be productive.

Researchers determined that what motivates a workaholic differs from the source of motivation for a person who merely enjoys working. They state that a workaholic "works because their sense of self-worth is tied to the output, not because they're genuinely passionate about their profession or their contribution to the team." The study's lead researcher believes that these results will help managers to identify workaholic employees.

A Canadian psychology professor, who also contributed to the article, thinks that in an interview situation a manager will be able to detect signs of workaholism because of the "narrowness of focus on self and worth." I’d be interested in reading further his opinion on this. As an interview is a somewhat artificial and self-centered situation, you spend the majority of time focusing on yourself and essentially selling yourself (your personality, ability, skills etc) to the interviewers. Are there specific statements or indicators that should raise red flags and cause concern for employers?

As well, in a short interview, is it truly possible to accurately make the distinction between a workaholic exhibiting negative traits and a person who just enjoys working a lot? Even if some level of distinction can be made, what manager wants to turn down a potentially hard working, dedicated, productive, gem of an employee because they may get too involved in their work (for the wrong, internal reasons)....how sure must a manager be that s/he is making this accurate and fine-line distinction before making the call?

I suppose what this article does show us are some of the reasons why the cycle of 'workaholism' continues in our society. If we continue to reward excessive work behaviours, without making a distinction between the healthy and the unhealthy ones, we are encouraging the very behaviours that stand to hurt us all in the end.

Your thoughts? Moving you forward, WLS

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