There is no indefinite job security. Market conditions fluctuate so
fast that workers would rather play it safe by working into the
good books of the employer. What better way to do that than to
be the first person to step into the office and the last to leave. What
started out as pure work enthusiasts end up being workaholics.
Workaholics' lives center around work and nothing else.
Workaholism was a topic we used to joke about, but as people
became more conscious of leading balanced lifestyles, it had
changed it status to a medical problem and was labeled Work
Addiction. Work addicts are in a different class. Many do not
work for the monetary rewards, promotion or recognition; they
work because they just cannot stop working. Bosses naturally love
to employ these people since their engines can run even without
fuel. The problem is that their engines don't last. Like a machine,
they lose touch with the social aspects of life and have little regard
for friends and family. They 'burn-out' at an early age, and are
often ill and depressed. How do we tell that a person is addicted
to work? What can we do to help them lead a balanced life?
The Man, the Horse, the Ox, and the Dog
One winter's day, during a severe storm, a Horse, an Ox, and a
Dog came and begged for shelter in the house of a Man. He
readily admitted them, and, as they were cold and wet, he lit a
fire for their comfort, and he put oats before the Horse, and hay
before the Ox, while he fed the Dog with the remains of his own
When the storm abated, and they were about to depart, they
determined to show their gratitude in the following way. They
divided the life of Man among them, and each endowed one
part of it with the qualities which were peculiarly his own.
The Horse took youth, and hence young men are impetuous,
headstrong, and obstinate in maintaining his own opinion.
The Ox took middle age, and accordingly man in his middle age
is fond of work, devoted to labor, and resolute to amass wealth
and to husband his resources.
The Dog took old age, which is the reason why old men are so
often peevish and ill-tempered, and, like dogs, attached chiefly
to those who look to their comfort, while they are disposed to
snap at those who are unfamiliar or distasteful to them.
Man's life is predestined.
Man by nature loves to work.
“It's true hard work never killed anyone but I figure
why take the chance?” ... Ronald Reagan
“For workaholics, all the eggs of self-esteem are in the
basket of work.” ... Judith M. Bardwick
“When work is a pleasure, life is a joy! When work is
duty, life is slavery.” ... Maxim Gorky
“One of the saddest things is that the only thing a man
can do for eight hours a day, day after day, is work. You
can't eat ... nor make love for eight hours.”
... William Faulkner
“There are two things to aim at in life: first, to get what
you want; and, after that, to enjoy it. Only the wisest of
mankind achieve the second.” ... Logan Pearsall Smith
“Imagine life as a game in which you are juggling five
balls in the air. You name them - work, family, health,
friends, and spirit - and you're keeping all of these in
the air. You will soon understand that work is a rubber
ball. If you drop it, it will bounce back. But the other
four balls - family, health, friends, and spirit are made
of glass. If you drop one of these, they will be irrevocably
scuffed, marked, nicked, damaged, or even shattered.
They will never be the same. You must understand that
and strive for balance in your life.” ... Brian Dyson
[browse collection of quotes and quotations]
Lessons in life:
The social problems arising out of this compulsive behavior are
plenty. We mentioned health as a major consequence.
Workaholics have a tendency to neglect their health. They
delay seeking medical treatment for their sickness and prefer to
spend their day working in office than recuperating at home.
Sometimes, it may be delayed so much that the sickness becomes
incurable. Common ailments are blood pressure and heart
problems, caused mainly by the work pressure they put onto
Besides physical condition, the emotional aspects of a workaholic
have to be considered. The moment he hits home, he would be
too tired to give any attention to his family members and loved
ones. He may be listening to his children, but his mind is
somewhere else, probably thinking of the uncompleted
assignments and projects. With little emotional bonding within
the family unit, it is a matter of time that he splits ways and the
spouse files for divorce.
There are telling signs of work addiction. Look around your
office or place of work and if you spot someone with several of
these symptoms, they are either already workaholics or have the
potential to be:-
- Works extraordinarily long hours.
- Always in a hurry.
- A perfectionist.
- Does not like to delegate work.
- Likes to stay in control.
- Emails you in the middle of the night.
- Wants everything done urgently and quickly.
- Impatient and has a low tolerance for mistakes.
- Always talking about work matters.
- Does not socialize unless forced to.
- Routine is home – office – home and nowhere else.
- Possibly temperamental and hostile.
- Takes little care of personal health and hygiene.
- Goes to work when on medical leave.
- Does not take vacation leave.
Within this broad generalization, there are also those who
choose to overwork themselves. We shall deal first with the true
blue workaholics i.e., those who take their work seriously and
cannot kick the habit of working. Such people have to
progressively understand that work is never-ending. Rather
than undertake the work alone, they should learn to delegate
and farm out the work. Bosses often pile work on workaholics
because they can produce results. A person has but two hands
and there is a limit as to how much work he can handle. It is
therefore useful to learn how to say “No” and to reject work. If
attention is spread too thin among all the assignments, quality is
adversely affected and it would not benefit the company. Devote
more time to relationships. Be convinced that success in life is
incomplete if it is only a success at work but a failure at home.
The second group of workers intentionally put themselves in
that position of a workaholic for various reasons:-
1. The pretender
He works hard only when his bosses are looking. One Japanese
bank manager we knew had this daily routine. He would leave his
computer on, switch to a password-protected screensaver mode,
and sneak out of the office at about 5pm. He had his dinner,
shower, booze and returned to office at 8pm. He then worked till
midnight and returned home after that. His boss would leave the
office at about 11pm, and was always pleased to see this manager
at his desk even at that late hour.
2. The opportunist
There is a rosy opportunity, a managerial position that is recently
vacant and up for grabs. This person has been eyeing it for a long
time and decides to become a work addict overnight to prove to
the management that he has the cut for the job. He makes a lot of
'noise' while at work just so that people know that he is working
3. The insecure
At the other end of the spectrum, instead of a possible promotion,
this person senses a threat to his position. He may get fired
because he handled something badly or there is a new employee
who is better qualified. The feeling of insecurity motivates this
person to work.
4. The procrastinator
He sits on files, drags his feet. Close to the deadline, he suddenly
wakes up to the reality that his career is on the line if he does not
complete the assignment. During this last stretch of the race, and
so close to the deadline, he has no alternative but to work doubly
5. The escapist
Family unhappiness causes him to stay out of the home. With
nowhere else to go, he stays in office for as long as he can and dives
into work to keep his mind away from his marital problems.
Curing the habit for these lot of people will depend on the reason
for them wanting to work long hours. A good boss should
encourage his employees to have a balanced life. The best way to
do that is to be the exemplary figure. If bosses leave the office
right after office hours, openly talk about their golf and other
social hobbies, and party away on weekends, the workers are
likely to follow suit.
Learn the Art of Saying NO
Cope with Work Stress
Higher Purpose and Job Satisfaction
Control and Overcome Procrastination
Books worth reading:
In Chained to the Desk: A Guidebook for Workaholics,
Their Partners and Children, and the Clinicians Who Treat
Them Bryan Robinson explains that workaholics need work
to satisfy their unconscious psychological needs. Although it
is often rewarded, it is a mental health problem that has to be
treated. The book has worksheets to help us identify a work
addict, and treatment methods to cure the work addiction.
For a personal insight and a reality check on what companies
do – to make profits – and how employees should view their
job, read this book It's Called Work for a Reason!: Your
Success Is Your Own Damn Fault by Larry Winget, the host of
the A&E reality show Big Spender.
© Business Fables and Management Lessons