Beware: More Than One Kind of Workaholic …

MP900432728Professor Wayne E. Oates, in his book The Confessions of a Workaholic, defines a workaholic as a person whose need for work has becomes so excessive that it creates noticeable disturbances or interferences with his bodily health, personal happiness and interpersonal relationships . . . and with his social functioning.
Our culture has a different attitude toward the workaholic than toward the alcoholic.  Excessive work is lauded, praised, expected, and often demanded in American business.
There are five types of workaholics:
1)  Dyed-In-The-Wool Workaholic . . . is a professional who put his standards of excellence above all else and is intolerant of incompetence.  His peers isolate him and feel he is in a class by himself.  Yet, they select him to do the more difficult, most critical, often grimier jobs.  Management feels ambivalent toward him and considers him both a blessing and a problem.  He is a blessing because they need him when a program is to be put into action.  It is the workaholic who can be counted on to take a project from paper to reality.  Yet, the workaholic is often a problem because he has the prestige to buck the boss and must always be taken into account.
The dyed-in-the-wool workaholic is usually overcommitted to his  organization, business, et cetera.  He is much in demand, is highly marketable and has no effective internal way of establishing his priorities.  Thus he takes  on more and more until he cannot do his job well, becomes anxious and depressed, and his life in general becomes unmanageable.
2)  The Converted Workaholic . . . was once a dyed-in-the-wool workaholic who has decided to limit his excessive work to certain reasonable time frames. He confesses his intolerance of others and repents. As a result, he enjoys more peer group and supervisory approval.  He defers to someone else the extra work that is loaded upon him, or he points out problems in the line organization, which make it impossible for him to accept additional work.  If those methods fail, he refuses the added work because it would pull him away from the work that enables him to make a greater contribution — the work he in fact likes best.  (The best way to limit an over commitment to an institution is to restrict one’s commitments to the main reason for being there in the first place.)   The converted workaholic resists the temptation to take on additional work because of its prestigious nature.
3)   The Situational Workaholic . . . works excessively when starting a new job or when he feels his job security is threatened.  However, he corrects this excess once his income and/or security improves.
4)   The Pseudo Workaholic . . .  has many of the characteristics of the dye-in-the-wool workaholic but they are superficial.  He is motivated primarily to move up the organization, to increase his power by the politics of the moment.
5)  The last so-called workaholic is the Escapist Workaholic . . .  posing as a workaholic.  This individual stays late because he/she doesn’t want to go home due to a poor spousal relationship, in-law problems, or because he/she is alone and lonely.  Escapist workaholics make the mistake of trying to have their jobs substitute for normal, social relationships.
To avoid workaholism, a man should avoid taking on jobs or accepting positions that are outside of his specialty or area of interest and expertise, and which he doesn’t enjoy.  He should not accept jobs simply for prestige.  A man should decide what he can do best and then do it with single-minded purpose.   He must reappraise his home relationships and exercise leadership, as necessary, to eliminate any undue family pressures.  Lastly, the worker must develop a sense of humor and not take himself and his work too seriously.

About the author: William Pauwels

William A. Pauwels, Sr. was born in Jackson Michigan to a Belgian, immigrant, entrepreneurial family. Bill is a graduate of the University of Notre Dame and served in executive and/or leadership positions at Thomson Industries, Inc., Dow Corning, Loctite and Sherwin-Williams. He is currently CIO of Pauwels Private Investment Practice. He's been commenting on matters political/economic/philosophical since 1980.

View all articles by William Pauwels

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