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Alcoholism is regarded as an illness of the brain wherein the person is unable to control their intake of alcohol. They require more alcohol to maintain their basic need. Alcoholism is often stereotyped by society as a negative condition that aims to suppress behavior such as loneliness, pain or emotional suppression. In contrast, a workaholic has similar symptoms as an alcoholic but society regards it as a super productive, motivated, industrious and conscientious person. But is it?

As trainers and coaches, we know that a workaholic faces the same challenge as an alcoholic as they slowly but consistently get sucked into the vortex of needing continuous work and that all the time. The belief is that work needs me and I need it, having withdrawal symptoms if not having enough work, therefore actively finding extra work and the compulsive idea that work cannot function without them. Both are brain illnesses that are in conjunction created by the environment and ourselves. Organizations to a certain extent, value workaholics but only to the point that the symptoms are under control.

As much as workaholics are applaudable by organizations how does it feel like living with one. The standard complaints are:

  1. The other person never features – you become a silent phantom in the relationship who is never taken consciously aware;
  2. Don’t actively participate in family events or special school functions. Not having the time as a more urgent pressing unexpected meeting just popped up. In those instances you are saying to your family and children as much as conveying the message that you do not matter right now; work does;
  3. Having a marriage with a third person present. A person against which you have no control over or can even fairly compete against;
  4. Needing praise and recognition from your peers and colleagues. Getting the short-lived adrenalin kick of they cannot do without me and I am needed;
  5. Sacrificing your sleep, exercise regime and health for extra time to squeeze in the work. The work gives you a high and becomes your legal drug;
  6. You never switch off your brain. It is on work steroids and every awake moment is spent on actual work or thinking about work. This may result in your sleeping as little as possible. Sleep is regarded as wasted unproductive time.

Why trainers think that work-aholism isn’t admirable

As much as work-aholism may be seen as an admirable trait it cannot be maintained and it comes at a cost that in the end you are likely to be alone. Through your behavior you have pushed your precious family and friends away from you. As organizational leaders we have the responsibility to balance and maintain our employee workloads and not stimulate or even breed workaholics. Sure they have a hereditary component but as organizations we might be exploiting this.

Let us rather foster employees who find their passion and meaning in work without sacrificing their personal relationships. Contact us for more information about coaching and training.