Any word connected to the word “aholic” is usually not a good thing. Alcoholic, shopaholic, chocaholic, textaholic, sourpatchkidaholic, etc. Workaholic used to be included in that group, but lately I have been thinking that workaholic is more of an aspirational term than a negative label. Some people actually like being called a workaholic. Do we aspire to be called workaholics?
Workaholism is more of a privilege than a disease. It is most prevalent amongst doctors, lawyers and psychologists. Though workaholics say they have no choice when it comes to working that hard, it is really their decision to be that devoted to work. From The Atlantic:
The condition may well have a certain social cachet; as the psychologist Bryan Robinson once put it, work addiction might be “the best-dressed mental health problem” of them all. In one of the rare economic studies on the subject, researchers found that the educated and affluent were much more likely than lower-income Americans to put off retirement, a possible sign of workaholism in action. Such delayed retirement certainly gives new meaning to the phrase worked to death.
Is the whole workaholic label just a way to actually make us feel better about being obsessed with our jobs? But there also seems to be this desperate need to prove to others that you are super busy, because that translates into importance (though it really always doesn’t).
As a result, being stressed out and talking about being stressed out has become some sort of proof of our importance. A war wound, if you will. Tim Kreider, the author of We Learn Nothing, wrote about “The Busy Trap” in The New York Times a few years ago. “Busyness serves as a kind of existential reassurance, a hedge against emptiness; obviously your life cannot possibly be silly or trivial or meaningless if you are so busy, completely booked, in demand every hour of the day,” he wrote.
Busy Life Syndrome is a real condition that impairs memory but I do believe that some people fake having it as an excuse to get out of participating in anything that isn’t work (aka life). We use our busy problem and calling ourselves workaholics as an excuse to take responsibility for anything that isn’t part of our job. It just seems to make us feel better if we are too busy to do something. We feel more important.
We also use workaholism as an excuse to get out of being responsible. “Oh, I couldn’t bring a bottle of wine to the dinner party because I was too busy working” or “I am going to wear this pajama top to work because I was up late last night with that project.” In a way being a workaholic allows you to be more selfish. Research has found that there is a strong link between characteristics associated with narcissists and characteristics associated with workaholics.
It is wonderful to love your job and be devoted to it and in some respects, but don’t aspire to be so addicted that you are using your job as a crutch to get out of life.
Do you consider yourself a workaholic?
Ask Daniel Rosensweig, President and CEO of Chegg, Inc., how he stays focused at work when he’s battling difficulties!