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Industrial & Organisational : Introduction : Personnel : Organizational psychology : Occupations: Work environment: Index : Outline

A workaholic or ergomaniac[citation needed] is a person who is addicted to work.

The term generally implies that the person enjoys their work; it can also 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, depression, obsessive-compulsive personality disorder, and obsessive-compulsive disorder can be work-related.

Workaholism is not the same as working hard.[1] Despite logging in an extraordinary amount of hours and sacrificing their health and loved ones for their jobs, workaholics are frequently ineffective employees.[2]


The word itself is a portmanteau word composed of work and alcoholic. According to William Safire, the term was coined by Wayne Oates in 1968. [3] [4] In his nationally syndicated column entitled America intoxicated by trendy words, James J. Kilpatrick called the term workaholic an "abominable coinage". [5] The term gained widespread use in the 1990s, as the result of a wave of the self-help movement that centered on addiction, forming an analogy between harmful social behaviors such as over-work and drug addiction, including addiction to alcohol.[citation needed]


Although the term workaholic usually has a negative connotation, it 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 and art. A workaholic in the negative sense is popularly characterized by a neglect of family and other social relations.[citation needed]

Experts say the incessant work-related activity masks anxiety, low self-esteem, and intimacy problems. And as with addictions to alcohol, drugs or gambling, workaholics' denial and destructive behavior will persist despite feedback from loved ones or danger signs such as deteriorating relationships. Poor health is another warning sign. Because there's less of a social stigma attached to workaholism than to other addictions, health symptoms can easily go undiagnosed or unrecognized, say researchers.[6]

Clinical researcher Professor Bryan 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.[7]

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.[8]

In the U.S., and Canada workaholism remains what it's always been: the so-called "respectable addiction" that's dangerous as any other.[citation needed] "Yes, workaholism is an addiction, an obsessive-compulsive disorder, and it's not the same as working hard" says Bryan Robinson, PhD, one of the leading researchers on this disorder. Workaholic's obsession with work is all-occupying, which prevents workaholics from maintaining healthy relationships, outside interests, or even take measures to protect their health.[9]

Workaholics feel the urge of being busy all the time, to the point that they often perform tasks that aren't 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 it's difficult for them to be team players, they have trouble delegating or entrusting co-workers, or they take on so much that they aren't as organized as others.[9] Furthermore, workaholics often suffer sleep deprivation which results in impaired brain and cognitive function.[10]

As with other psychological addictions, workaholics are often unable to see that they have a problem. Confronting the workaholic will generally meet with denial. Co-workers, family members and friends may need to engage in some type of an intervention to communicate the effects of the workaholic’s behavior on them.[11] Indeed, mental treatment to cure a workaholic can successfully reduce the hours spent on the job, while increasing the person's productivity. Studies show that fully recovered former workaholics are able to accomplish in 50 hours what they previously couldn't do in 80.[12]

See also



  1. Workaholism: The “Respectable” Addiction. URL accessed on 2010-07-28.
  2. Workaholism: The “Respectable” Addiction. URL accessed on 2010-07-28.
  3. The Lives They Lived: On Language; Wordplayers, New York Times, January 2, 2000
  4. Wayne E. Oates, “On Being a ‘Workaholic’ (A Serious Jest),” Pastoral Psychology 19 (October 1968), pages 16-20.
  5. Tuscaloosa News, August 25, 1985, page 26A
  6. Special Report: Workaholism. URL accessed on 2010-07-28.
  7. 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.
  8. includeonly>Daniel Griffiths. "Japan's workaholic culture", BBC News Online, April 4, 2000. Retrieved on 2007-10-12.
  9. 9.0 9.1 The Hidden Costs of Workaholism. Fast Company. URL accessed on 2010-07-28.
  10. The Human Brain - Sleep and Stress. URL accessed on 2010-07-28.
  11. Treatment Options for the Workaholic. HealthyPlace. URL accessed on 2010-07-28.
  12. Treatment for the Workaholic. HealthyPlace. URL accessed on 2010-07-28.

External links

The Economics of Workaholism


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