How to Manage a Workaholic?

Work Presenteeism
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Devayani Vyavaharkar
Student (University), Germany

How to Manage a Workaholic?

The term Workaholic, coined by psychologist Wayne Oates (1968), has become a wide-spread buzzword. Today, anyone seen working longer than the regular working hours is inconsiderately labelled as a workaholic. Employees often express themselves as being workaholics because they love doing their job. However, that is not what the term means. In fact, for a workaholic, work no longer remains pleasant or something that one can do passionately. Instead, it becomes an invasive, unpleasant obligation.

Difference Between Workaholism And Work Engagement

There is a stark difference between workaholism and work engagement. Workaholism has been defined as "the compulsion to work or the need to work endlessly". A workaholic is constrained due to internal pressures and feels the necessity to work under any circumstances. Such employees often have persistent, ceaseless thoughts related to work even when they are no longer working. They keep on working beyond the expected level out of them, despite the probability of negative consequences. Whereas work engagement refers to "the emotional commitment an employee exhibits towards the organization and its respective goals". For an engaged employee, the underlying factors of intrinsic motivation drive and encourage them to work. Workaholism is associated with negative emotions (anger, disappointment, and guilt), whereas work engagement is associated with positive emotions (motivation, enthusiasm, and calmness).

What are the Major Traits of a Workaholic?

  1. Working more than 40 hours a week regardless of any upcoming deadlines or pending workload.
  2. Not concerned with work-life balance. Misses out on family events and personal time because of excessive work attachment.
  3. Often ponders about work even during offtimes and weekends; cannot resist the need to get back to the office and start working.
  4. Never satisfied with the quality of one's work or the work done by fellow team members. As a result, a workaholic strives to work even harder.
  5. Enjoys having conversations that are related to work. However, a workaholic is not able to participate in any conversation, which is not work-related.
  6. Prefers to sit at the desk and continue working even during lunch hours instead of taking a break.
  7. Has very little or no interest in hobbies and leisure activities.
  8. Constant thoughts of contributing more time to work from one's already busy schedule.
  9. Does not agree with those colleagues who take time off to spend more time with family or plan a vacation.
  10. Continues working despite being told by superiors to slow down a bit. A workaholic keeps on working to reduce feelings of guilt and resentment related to wasting time not working.

How can Managers Prevent Workaholism and Deal with Workaholics?

Managers play a vital role in establishing workplace cultures and norms. Hence, they should try to look out for the above signs among their employees. Excessive workaholism may result in depression, work-related stress, anxiety, and low job performance, along with a wide range of health complaints. Here are a few ways managers can help reduce excessive workaholism in the workplace:
  1. Discourage practices such as unnecessarily long working hours. Encourage employees to focus on improving their work productivity within the working hours.
  2. Promoting work-life balance among employees will not be possible without the same initiative taken by managers themselves (be a role model). Managers should try regulating their own work overload and job expectations and then convey the same to each employee.
  3. Employees should be offered a flexible working schedule. Rather than confining them to the fixed working hours, flexible boundaries can help employees make decisions considering their schedules as well.
  4. Employees should be made aware of the consequences related to excessive working. They should be given strategies to maintain their physical and mental health while simultaneously coping with workloads.
  5. Another way to help employees use their paid leaves for recreational purposes is by allowing very little or no carryover of paid leaves to the next year. Instead of wasting their paid leaves, employees will willingly dedicate some days for personal time and self-care.
  6. Managers should help develop a transparent working atmosphere that fosters open communication. This may encourage employees to convey their problems and grievances to them.
⇒ Do you encounter a lot of workaholism in your team? What do you think is the best way to deal with it?

Harper, J.(2020, September 4). "11 personality traits of a workaholic". The HR Digest.
Morin, A.(2015, April 21). "7 signs you may be a workaholic". Forbes.
Clark, M. (2016, April). "Workaholism: It's not just long hours on the job". American Psychological Association.
Hussung, T. (2017, June 19). " Signs of a workaholic: What managers need to know". All Business.


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