Full version Workaholics


This print version free essay Workaholics.

Category: Psychology

Autor: reviewessays 01 October 2010

Words: 2388 | Pages: 10


Why did I choose to write about workaholics? The main reason is that the general picture about these people is bad, but there are a lot of them around us and very often we admire them. They are doing exactly what they love – work – and they can never have enough of it. Although they spend most of their time working, surprisingly they are happy. They show so good results in what they do. But the consequences are great. Family life is disrupted, intellectual horizons narrow and the consequences to the workaholic's health are severe: fat, lack of exercise and stress. Why do people become workaholics? When a person becomes workaholic is there a way back? How should people around him act in order to keep both him and themselves happy? Lets start explaining what workaholics are, how they act and then we'll get answers to this questions.


The definition of workaholism from a dictionary would be someone who has a compulsion to work all time and a workaholic is someone who loves to work or who is addicted to work. How can this people work throughout the whole day and be happy and never tired knowing that they sleep only for 4-5 hours a day. Perhaps the main reason for this is that people evaluate themselves more on measurable things such as personal achievements and financial worth – not emotional wellness. People often tend to feel guilty if they are not constantly being productive, as they tend to consider relaxation a waste of precious time. They need work to feel good. Workaholics are people who put the work on first place. Usually they need to prove themselves to the their colleagues or their bosses so they would praise them. Sometimes workaholism occurs because the person works to avoid the pain. Workaholism is addiction and all addictions are in a way avoidance of pain. They work just to cover the pain and not deal with it. Some of the workaholics became what they are because of greed. They can never have enough so they want to work as much as possible. Sometimes the hard workers are being referred as workaholics. While hard workers are ready to work some extra time to finish a project or to meet a deadline, the workaholic uses all his extra time to work. Workaholics don’t have hobbies except if they are related to the job such as golf games with business partners. Everybody thinks that the workaholics are over doing with their job and they think that they are never work enough.


How did this people get addicted to work? Nobody can tell exactly how but there is a theory that workaholism starts at really early stages of life. Marilyn Machlowitz says in her book Workaholics supports this theory and says that this whole process starts when children play games that are connected with real time jobs or they play games connected with getting money such as selling lemonade or old magazines. She also says that children of workaholics are about to become ones in their later life development. The addiction to the child of a workaholic is not passed actively. The workaholics don’t tell their children to work or not to work a lot. The reason is that children often want to be as successful as their parents. Machlowitz later on in her book also says that some children think if they don’t show the best results in school their parents will not love them and therefore start working more than they should. But however it is not only the childhood that makes people workaholics. Although it might be the best period to make person think like a workaholic, the adult phase of life is the most important. The most common target of workaholism is people that have high responsibility jobs. Their motivation is fear. Workaholics on high positions just hate to fail and feel inferior to all other workers that are bellow them. Therefore they are double-checking all possibilities that are available for a certain task that they are responsible for. But perhaps the most common reason for workaholism is fear of laziness. 1) Thomas Wolfe supports this idea in his “You can’t go home again”:

I’ve got an idea that a lot of the work in this world gets done by lazy people. That’s the reason they work – because they’re so lazy – It’s this way: you work because you are not afraid to. You work

1) Robert D. Capalan “Effects of workload, role ambiguity and type A personality on depression, personality and heart rate” Journal of Applied Psychology, 60 (p.6)

because you have to drive yourself to such a fury to begin. That

part is just hell!!! It’s so hard to get started that once you you’re

afraid of slipping back. You’d rather do anything than go through that agony again – so you keep going till you couldn’t stop even if you wanted to…. Then people say you’re glutton for work, but it isn’t so. It’s just laziness – just plain, damned plain laziness, that’s all.


At work they show themselves in full element. They work much more and lot faster and better than the others. Therefore they quickly climb high the hierarchy tree in a company. The workaholic works so fast so he often does thinks twice or what more often happens does thinks that he doesn’t have to. “They contribute a lot for organization at some cost to their own mental and physical health”. Being a boss is inadequate job for workaholic. He has problem dealing with people. As a boss, a workaholic requires his workers to work as hard as he does. When they are not doing what they are expected their right to make some decisions is denied. They tend to be critical for the co-workers. They always think that people are not trying hard to work and that are avoiding work all the time. When somebody has a day off because he is sick, a workaholic would say that he is magnifying the problem just not to work. They show little interest and great intolerance for the personal lives of the co-workers. They might say, “How’s the family?” but they will not pay attention to the answer. They don’t show any personal interest about their co-workers except if it’s something related to their needs or demands. Marilyn Machlowitz in her “Workaholics” book tells us about one case like this. The secretary after five years at work decided that she wants to change her glasses, and use lens instead. When at work, her workaholic boss noticed that she doesn’t have the glasses and said “How are you going to type for me without your glasses?”. Workaholics work according to their and only to their schedules, and get really neurotic when they can not work by their schedule because of other people [usually because the others didn’t do what they were expected by the workaholic].


It’s not easy to say how workaholics act home, as they don’t spend much time in their homes. Often they are just physically home, while they think of being at work. Lots of them have dictaphones to record the ideas they come up with while they are at home and thinking about their jobs. Workaholic parents want to spend quality time with their children “some day”. Some of them use this moments while with their children to revise their work. For example they will take the children to a game and will adjust the ideas that they have to the tasks they have. Or if they decide to go to the cinema or to opera with their spouses they will use that time for a short nap. Although families have some benefits from workaholic members, like good financial condition, they suffer a lot. Golda Meir, former prime minister of Israel in an interview for New York Times says:

“Some said that I was married to my job. My children suffered at various times, but they got older they understood. As for my husband, he was a wonderful human being. Bad luck that he married me.”

Many workaholics turn their bedrooms into improvised offices. Their spouses when looking for some answers usually get answers like “not now, I’m tired” or “we’ll discuss that tomorrow I’m really tired now”. Too much work is their favorite excuse whenever they need one, all though they are proud of themselves that they worked so much. Many people think that their workaholic spouses have affairs. The fact that they work so much reduces their desire for sex, and therefore they are avoiding it, leaving a reason suspicion for the spouses. But what often happens is that the spouses of the workaholics are the ones who have affairs since they are the ones who have extra time to fill.

What about the children in workaholic family? According to the psychologist Maurice Prout “this kids either become exactly the same hard working and intense or totally opposite as some beach bums”. 2) A son of a workaholic tells how he felt towards his father. “At the beginning resentment – I used to hate him because he was never around. Second rebellion – I dropped out and changed a lot of schools. And third gratitude – Seeing him work hard and succeed made me feel I could succeed too if I worked hard. He remembers that first thing to ask his daddy when he had time with him was “How long are you going to stay home now?” The workaholic parents often come up with the idea that they want to spend some time with their children but by the time they do that they get answer “Its too late”.


Workaholics imagine themselves as happy people. Being good and

productive at work is what is the most important in life. Therefore

2) Extracted from Marilyn Machlowitz’s book “Workaholics”

they tend to don’t give much attention in the “less” important things in life such as health, family, friends and so on. Maybe it seems that for a workaholic it is really easy to find a wife, since they have successful careers but having a healthy marriage with a workaholic is almost impossible. But however when the rest of the family is aware that they have a workaholic in their family and they accept that, the workaholic feels himself fulfilled. Other factor that could make workaholics happy is the variety in their jobs. The more challenging and different than previous the problems would be the better the workaholic will feel. Other thing that can make workaholics happy would be finding the “perfect” job for him what would be some job where he can use his creativity and knowledge the best. Other issue in making workaholics happy is their health. The health and the workaholics’ happiness are proportional. The healthier they are the more they think that is because they work a lot, not spending time for “unimportant” things in life, and therefore they feel more fulfilled. Workaholics cannot be happy if they don’t work. They say that when people stop working they turn into old people. That’s probably the reason why they don’t retire even though they we’ve been working hard all life on the excuse to rest and live good when retire.

For workaholics good personality characteristics are responsibility, recognition, creativity, energetic, and they strive to achieve these characteristics in order to feel valuable. Often, they dislike somebody with a lack in these characteristics.


First of all the most important part is recognizing workaholism. Workaholics sometimes don’t agree that they are addicted to work and are trying to prove the opposite. Once the workaholism is diagnosed, searching for ways to cope with it is important. Changing the workaholism is not easy at all. The addiction is as strong as some drug addiction and requires a lot of work and attention with the workaholic. Therefore better way of dealing with one is trying to spend his short time for the family as good as possible. There are many ways of how to do that and Marilyn Machlowitz describes some of them in the book “Workaholics”. The first step she says is creating some link between the workaholic parent and the child. So if the father were successful businessman, providing some “business kit” to the kid such as “My first personal office” or something similar, would be excellent idea. For further integration of the workaholic in the family, Marilyn advises creating schedules for them for over a longer period of time. What does she mean by this? Knowing that workaholics enjoy their schedules doing a family meeting or event by the schedule would be as a part of his work. Making the workaholic do certain promises such as going on a ballet or cinema for a certain date is also good. Maybe even better would be making him to decide the location for the next summer vacation. If they come up with a location a next agreement is about to be made of how many business phone calls the workaholic will make [none can not be at the beginning, but after certain period of time if the whole procedure goes over and over again that can be established].


All the methods offered for overwhelming workaholism are either group therapy or self-improvement courses. Both are based on describing what workaholism is, and how dangerous it can be for the entities. Also differentiating the hard working from workaholism. The two courses also tend to make the workaholics reasonable answers to questions like: How much is really enough for me? How long do I usually rest and is this enough? Is what I’m exchanging my life worth it? What summer vacations are for? And maybe the most important: What am I trying to prove and to whom I want to prove myself? Making the workaholic aware of what he has become and what is he actually doing is the first step to turn the person away from his addictiveness and make him get back to track and work normally.


“Workaholics” – Marilyn Machlowitz


“Journal of Applied Psychology” Nr.60


“The truth about burnouts” – Christina Maslach, Michael P. Leiter