Finance Work Workaholism: this is the modern workplace danger

Workaholism: this is the modern workplace danger

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In the current economic climate, doing overtime and having lunch at your desk are commonplace in offices around Australia.

Restructuring, organisational downsizings and job insecurity mean you’re probably putting an increased amount of time and effort into your work.

• Always working overtime? You’re helping no one
• Why Aussies are ‘chucking a sickie’ to escape stress

Despite the fact we’re all doing more with less, a recent study found some of us are actually compulsive workaholics, characterised by our personality traits.

If you’re a perfectionist, have a competitive side, or just love to please people, read on.

Workaholism defined

The findings, published in the International Journal of Stress Management, define workaholism as a strong inner compulsion to work excessively hard.

According to the report, workaholics feel compelled to do overtime, take work home and work on weekends and holidays. If they don’t, they feel restless.

Struggle to let go? You could be a workaholic. Photo: Shutterstock

Workaholics also think about their jobs when they’re not working.

“Such workers comply with their obsession in order to prevent the tension, restlessness, and feelings of guilt and worthlessness that arise when they do not work,” the report says.

Brash Consulting executive consultant Leanne Faraday-Brash, however, warns of a stigma against people who work hard.

“We’re operating in an environment post-GFC so there’s a huge amount of insecurity and a lot of people have been let go. People have to do more with less. That may involve longer hours,” Ms Faraday-Brash says.


According to the report, workaholics have a hard time letting go or delegating tasks to their co-workers.

Employees who were found to be workaholics are “merciless in their demands and scrupulous in executing their job tasks”.

“Perfectionism is also related to workaholics’ unwillingness to delegate tasks to others, essentially because the high standard for work set by perfectionists results in having great difficulty entrusting others with job responsibilities,” the report said.

Ms Faraday-Brash says some people might label their co-workers workaholics when in reality they just work harder than they do.

Do you like to impress your bosses with overtime? Photo: Shutterstock

“What’s interesting is unpacking what’s meant by the term, because sometimes the people making the judgement themselves may not have the same work ethic and can be describing someone who works harder than them.”


One of the major personality traits of a compulsive workaholic is competitiveness, or a high ‘achievement motivation’.

Workaholics love to complete challenging tasks and compete with their colleagues.

According to the report, these people need to “establish ambitious goals that require overcoming obstacles” and “compete with and surpass other people by driving oneself hard”.

Ms Faraday-Brash says some employees may be required to do hard work, or simply love their jobs.

“I’ve worked with teams of people who could be described as workaholics but they’re just trying to stop the place from falling over,” she says.

“They may just love the job and the people they work with, and have a high work ethic.”


If you’re a conscientious person who isn’t competitive or a perfectionist, are you still likely to be a workaholic?

If you work in an environment which encourages you to be competitive and rewards overtime, then the answer could be yes.

Researchers found people-pleasers who worked in a competitive, task-orientated environment were more likely to compulsively overwork.

Employees who were more conscientious reported higher levels of drive, a key motivator which propels workaholics to work excessively hard.

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