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The Workaholic: Asset or Liability?

In a society where WiFi is more highly sought after than a meaningful conversation, people who are addicted to work are seen as ambitious, driven and successful. We praise those who arrive early to work, glorify the ones who stay late and worship those who don’t take leave. However, these qualities are exactly what make a workaholic the poorest candidate for employee of the month.


Monday- the day most people dread because it means fighting the morning traffic, sitting at a desk and watching the clock until it reads “17:01???. For the workaholic, however, Monday can’t come soon enough. While the workaholic’s colleagues look forward to the next public holiday, the workaholic sees it as another day at the office… or as a reason to panic because there are deadlines that must be met.


Workaholism is seen as an acceptable addiction because people who work too much supposedly get promotions, positive job evaluations, and a 13th cheque. In reality, workaholics are some of your most ineffective employees because they usually have more work than they can cope with, they don’t delegate and they don’t play well with others.


We are living in a society that makes it easier for workaholics to satisfy their cravings. You don’t need to be at the office to do work because laptops, iPads and cell phones ensure that we are never out of reach. However, we can’t blame technology for the problem. After all, McDonalds is not making us fat and the liquor store is not forcing us to drink.


Employing a workaholic should be good for business though, right? Not so. The workaholic may sound like every CEO’s dream but there is a significant difference between ‘working hard’ and ‘working smart’. While it may seem like your employee is contributing furiously to your bottom line, you’ll probably find that he/she is a perfectionist, a serial-procrastinator, which is the real reason this individual is working until 9pm every night.


So what makes a workaholic bad for business? Here are three characteristics:


  1. They are prone to burn out

A workaholic may appear to be a high performer but looks can be deceiving. An effective employee works hard in healthy and sustainable ways because he or she is happy and inspired to perform. The workaholic feels under pressure to meet unrealistic deadlines, leading to unhappiness and burn out.


  1. Their work ethic is ruled by fear

An effective employee is confident about their worth and isn’t dependant on feedback from others. They know exactly when to perform at their peak and they conserve their energy for these occasions. The workaholic, on the other hand, relies heavily on this external validation to know that they are doing a good job. They are ruled by fear so they have a tough time prioritising and they believe that a day not spent working is a waste.


  1. Image is everything

A workaholic is preoccupied with looking busy. If you are always busy, you must be important, right? The high performer is more concerned with actually doing business, which is what you’re paying them for. The effective employee is looking to achieve results and they will prioritise work in the most strategic and effective way possible. A workaholic is just filling space and time because they feel insecure when they aren’t buried under a pile of work. This insecurity stems from not knowing their worth.


The guy who spends his entire weekend at the office, may not be achieving the required results. So while a workaholic may sound like the ideal employee to have in your business arsenal, what you’re really looking for is an effective employee.

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