by Michael Holland    

“Blah, blah, bah. . . I have to get this work done.  . . blah, blah, blah”

There’s a fine line between working hard and being addicted to work.  I see many executives and employees who work hard and enjoy most of the work they do.  But I also see some who are addicted to work: people who thrive too much on the constant tug, pressure, and success that their work provides.  They work – or stay at work – for countless hours.  They check email constantly thoughout the night.  They must, MUST be at the blah blah event or else everything will fall apart.  Their team needs them to be there or else all hell will break lose… or so they think.

Here are 4 ways to know if you are addicted to work.

  1. Chronic Illness = Work Harder – You have been diagnosed with a chronic or even a debilitating illness.  You rationalize that a deeper commitment to getting the work done is required so that a) you get ahead in order to prepare the organization/team/customers for potential times when you may be less than 100% and/or b) You must not show weakness and have to continue to set the standard of work effort that others should aspire to.
  2. Prime Time – During the 1st 20 minutes after waking up and the last 20 minutes of the day before going to sleep, work fills your brain to the exclusion of everything else.
  3. Insatiable Appetite for the Rush – The rush of adrenalin and satisfaction from accomplishments is so great and insatiable that you must continue to have your fix every day.  You can’t see a day that doesn’t have some aspect of work.  On vacation, you may not be checking email, but you are still solving a work problem while you “play” with your kids in the ocean.
  4. Collateral Damage – In your wake of continually striving to accomplish more, you can look back and see a slew of damaged personal relationships.  Sure, some of these weren’t great relationships to start off with, and others were –well, to be blunt—not that important to you anyway. The kids you left behind are easy to point out, but what about all those friends who used to make you belly laugh and just enjoy life? You tell yourself that they were just holding you back.

Working hard can feel great.  Working hard can provide us with tremendous benefits, including living a healthier and happier life.  But there are some of you who are addicted to work, and that is no different than if you were addicted to drugs, gambling, or other vices: it is impeding your ability to have that happier, healthier life. In the end, your great-sounding rationalizations and passionate arguments for why you do what you do won’t stand the test of time.

Coaching Thoughts – For You and Your Peers

  • Take a moment to look at your life. What are your priorities? What fills your brain during “Prime Time”?
  • Have you ever experienced (either from your own decisions or someone else’s) the “Collateral Damage” that comes from addiction of some sort?
  • Why does a “work addiction” fall into the same category as an addiction with drugs or gambling?