A workaholic is a person who works compulsively. The person works at the cost of their sleep, meeting friends or family. While the term generally implies that the person enjoys their work, it can also alternately imply that they simply feel compelled to do it. There is no generally accepted medical definition of such a condition, although some forms of stress, impulse control disorder, obsessive-compulsive personality disorder, and obsessive-compulsive disorder can be work-related. Much like alcoholism as a form of an alcoholic but in terms of work therefore a workaholic.
The word itself is a portmanteau word composed of work and alcoholic. Its first known appearance, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, came in Canada in the Toronto Daily Star of 5 April 1947, page 6, with a punning allusion to Alcoholics Anonymous:
The term workaholic refers to various types of behavioral patterns, with each having its own valuation. For instance, workaholism is sometimes used by people wishing to express their devotion to one's career in positive terms. The "work" in question is usually associated with a paying job, but it may also refer to independent pursuits such as sports, music, art and science. However, the term is more often used to refer to a negative behavioral pattern that is popularly characterized by spending an excessive amount of time on working, an inner compulsion to work hard, and a neglect of family and other social relations.
Researchers have found that in many cases, incessant work-related activity continues even after impacting the subject's relationships and physical health. Causes of it are thought to be anxiety, low self-esteem and intimacy problems. Further, workaholics tend to have an inability to delegate work tasks to others and tend to obtain high scores on personality traits such as neuroticism, perfectionism and conscientiousness.
Clinical psychologist Bryan E. Robinson identifies two axes for workaholics: work initiation and work completion. He associates the behavior of procrastination with both "Savoring Workaholics" (those with low work initiation/low work completion) and "Attention-Deficit Workaholics" (those with high work initiation and low work completion), in contrast to "Bulimic" and "Relentless" workaholics - both of whom have high work completion.
Workaholism in Japan is considered a serious social problem leading to early death, often on the job, a phenomenon dubbed karōshi. Overwork was popularly blamed for the fatal stroke of Prime Minister of Japan Keizō Obuchi, in the year 2000. Death from overwork is not a uniquely Japanese phenomenon; in 2013, a Bank of America intern in London died after working for 72 hours straight.
Workaholics feel the urge of being busy all the time, to the point that they often perform tasks that are not required or necessary for project completion. As a result, they tend to be inefficient workers, since they focus on being busy, instead of focusing on being productive. In addition, workaholics tend to be less effective than other workers because they have difficulty working as part of a team, trouble delegating or entrusting co-workers, or organizational problems due to taking on too much work at once. Furthermore, workaholics often suffer sleep deprivation, which results in impaired brain and cognitive function.
- Downshifting (lifestyle)
- Money-rich, time-poor
- Real Programmer syndrome
- Work–life balance
- Workplace stress
- "workaholic, n. and adj." in Oxford English Dictionary Third Edition (September 2014)
- Robinson, Bryan E. (2001). Chained to the Desk: A Guidebook for Workaholics, Their Partners and Children, and the Clinicians Who Treat Them. New York: New York University Press. p. 62. ISBN 0-8147-7480-6.
- Daniel Griffiths (April 4, 2000). "Japan's workaholic culture". BBC News Online. Retrieved 2007-10-12.
- "Bank of America To Improve Working Conditions After Intern Death". Retrieved Aug 4, 2015.
- "The Hidden Costs of Workaholism". Fast Company. 2009-07-09. Archived from the original on 2011-06-07. Retrieved 2010-07-28.
- "The Human Brain - Sleep and Stress". Fi.edu. 2007-09-27. Archived from the original on 2013-01-07. Retrieved 2010-07-28.
- Meissner, Ulrike Emma (2018). Business Risk Workaholism, Management challenges and action guidelines for professional practice. Berlin: Berlin Peter Lang. ISBN 978-3-631-76634-7.