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All work and No Play – A perspective for high-management

What is workaholism?

Until now there is no real consensus on the definition of workaholism in Science. The study “All Work and No Play? A Meta-Analytic Examination of the Correlates and Outcomes of Workaholism” (2014) has defined workaholism as follows: Workaholism is an addiction and obsessive compulsion to work. Internal pressures make workaholics think constantly of work even when not working and working way more than needed. Workaholics don’t tend to reduce or stop their excessive working habits even when facing negative consequences.

The Study researched the correlation between different aspects of personality traits and behaviour with workaholism. In addition, they looked at the outcomes workaholism has on the individual. Clark and Co. found no gender relation to workaholism, i.e. men and women are alike to get into that addiction. There is also no correlation between financial need and workaholic behaviours.

Personality and workaholism

Perfectionists, Type-A-Personalities (competitive, ambitious, achievement striving), and non-delegating are highly correlated with workaholism. Workaholics tend to have high standards for their work. They usually work way beyond what is actually needed from them and oftentimes create more work themselves. They also don’t like delegating work to others. This can come from high self-esteem but people with low self-esteem can be trapped in workaholism as well. They might want to control this important aspect of their life. Work becomes a tool used to avoid any insecurities and ego deficits.

Why you should avoid enabling workaholism at the company

These high standards of workaholics can lead to job stress and, as positively related to workaholism, eventually turn into a burnout. Next to decreased job satisfaction and productivity, it increases counterproductive work behaviour (CWB). Workaholics are more likely to get into conflicts with co-workers, especially when seen as competition. This can have negative consequences on their own performance as well as their colleagues’ performance.

Having a lot of stress doesn’t only impact your work-life, though. Overtime overworking and chronic stress lead to poorer mental and physical health and increase in absenteeism. The social life of workaholics is also negatively affected. Workaholics have lower marital satisfaction and poorer relationships in general. This in itself can often lead to a decreased life satisfaction.

What to do as a company to avoid the high-cost of workaholism

Workaholics tend to choose companies or professions that accommodate and reward their workaholic behaviour and tendencies. When companies keep rewarding long hours with bonuses or continuous promotions they are actually enabling workaholism in a way of behavioural reinforcement. However, there is a need for high management to understand that high quantity usually means lower quality and therefore counterproductive outcomes like higher costs and more sick days due to increased ill health for the company.

There are many strategies and models of helping employees ace it and still not be motivated to the point of exhaustion and burnout. Some professionals specialising in corporate culture, mental health at work and more may advise that bonus systems are altered or dropped altogether. And instead cash is invested into fostering non-work-related activities and exercises for employees. Healthy competition can be key motivator for high performance, but teaching your team to work together can be very uplifting for the company in its own right. Furthermore, employers and high management have to be setting a great example for their employees.

Investing in your employees is an investment that will directly contribute to the success of your business. The higher the job satisfaction the more it will show in productivity and quality of work. Rather than the workaholic way, why not choose the healthier, more beneficial way for all? We encourage you to seek external support from professionals specialising in workaholism to help you build the best company ever.

Want to read a study on this topic?

Source: Malissa A. Clark, Jesse S. Michel, Ludmila Zhdanova, Shuang Y. Pui, Boris B. Baltes: All Work and No Play? A Meta-Analytic Examination of the Correlates and Outcomes of Workaholism (2014)


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