Tuesday, 15 July 2014

Workaholism – Choice or Compulsion?

While driving to work yesterday morning, I heard an ad on the radio for a programme scheduled forlater that night that caught my attention. It was about workaholism and its effects not only on the workaholic himself but also on his family and surroundings. Also discussed was how to actually realize that you have become a workaholic.

There have been countless psychological studies on workaholism which identify the signs that someone has become one – staying late at night at work, not having time to socialize with friends or spend with your family anymore, not having time for your own hobbies or simply not being able to walk without thinking about your work and things you will need to do tomorrow. Sometimes it is our choice – we get into our job so much that we forget that there is also another world. But sometimes we are in situations when we actually don't have a choice. And I am not sure if this is also what can be called workaholism.

How much is enough?

It's nothing new that in more and more cases in today's corporate world, people are treated more like statistical numbers than humans in order to achieve the goals set by their boards, presidents and directors. Of course, your company's positive results will in most cases reflect (or at least should) on your wallet at the end of the year. This is nothing that should catch our attention; we are already used to it.

But what actually distresses me most is when there is too much pressure put on the excellent employees, who are overperforming most of the time with way above average results, then your boss recognizes it and gives you an even larger workload. And just because of your effectiveness you are expected to get it done. Of course, it's hard to argue with your boss about your new tasks, because most of the time we have responsibilities – we have families to take care about, bills and mortgage to pay. Until finally you come to the point when you ask yourself, “How much is enough and is my paycheck really worth it?”

Does this story sound familiar to you?

This is the case with my friend, who is an excellent employee – year after year achieving her targets until her targets were raised so high that they were unrealistic to achieve. Even though she has communicated it with her boss, there has been no change. So now she is asking herself this question: “Should I stay with this company?”

I believe, considering her great international experience, she wouldn't have a problem to find a job with a competitor. However, her management should be asking: “Is it worth it for us to lose her and will we find a proper and qualified replacement for her if she decides to leave?” And most of all: “What could have possibly gone wrong for this excellent employee to now be thinking about leaving our company?” Her boss could blame his boss, who could blame his boss, etc.

But I believe you all know the answer to this question. Some people are motivated by money, some by employee benefits and some finally got the job with the company they dreamed for years of working for and that might be enough. Until ...

And what is the conclusion for all of us, no matter what our position is and what responsibilities we have at work? It's nothing new – to be careful to set company targets so, even though they might be hard to achieve, they are still realistic and motivating enough for your employees.

And most important of all – to find the balance between your professional and private life. Because no matter how much time you spend at work daily and how much pressure is put on you and on your team, you have to find the time to recharge your batteries. Although the “how much is enough” border is very sensitive for employers and employees alike, even during the busiest time of the year you should try to find a little space to turn off for you and your co-workers, because even the Duracell Bunny can't keep going forever. And losing an excellent employee is a very expensive matter for every company.

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