By Anja van den Berg
All workaholics work too much, but not all act alike. Each style of workaholism expresses a different set of emotional vulnerabilities.
However, the result of any style of workaholism is the same: an unbalanced life dominated by long hours at the office.
“The broad umbrella of workaholism is only a starting point”, says Dr Bryan Robinson, psychotherapist and Professor Emeritus at the University of North Carolina.
Robinson differentiates between four classifications of work addiction: the relentless, the bulimic, the attention-deficit, and the savouring workaholic.
- The Relentless Workaholic
If you’re a relentless workaholic, you’re distinguished by high work initiation and high work completion. You work compulsively and constantly day and night, holidays and weekends, regardless of the deadline. You’re a hard-driving perfectionist, your work is thorough, and your standards practically unreachable. There’s no let-up and few periods of downtime in your life, and leisure and recreation are rare. Instead of dragging your feet with deadlines, you complete them weeks ahead of schedule. Getting the project finished early leaves extra time to focus on other job tasks. Your focus is constant initiation of tasks and completing them at all costs.
- The Bulimic Workaholic
If you’re a bulimic workaholic, you have out-of-control work habits that alternate between binges and purges and are distinguished by low work initiation and high work completion.
Faced with a time crunch, you manufacture adrenaline as you engage in frantic productivity, followed by inertia. You over-commit, wait until the last possible minute then throw yourself into a panic and work frantically to complete the task. In contrast to relentless workaholics, you know you’re a bulimic workaholic if you go through long periods where you don’t really deliver outputs.
- The Attention-Deficit Workaholic
If you’re an attention-deficit workaholic (ADW), you’re distinguished by high work initiation but low work completion. You are adrenaline-seeking, easily bored and distracted, constantly chasing stimulation. You like risky jobs and living on the edge because it gives you an adrenaline charge that helps you focus at work. Creating tight deadlines, keeping many balls in the air, and taking risks at work make it difficult for you to slow down and relax. Easily bored with follow-through details, you jump ahead to the next item on the agenda to get another charge. You might create a crisis over small things to get an adrenaline fix A self-manufactured adrenaline fix functions as a biochemical cocktail that provides the needed focus, allowing you to buckle down and complete a task. As a result, you start and leave many half-baked projects and move on to the next thriller.
- The Savouring Workaholic
If you’re a savouring workaholic, you’re the opposite of the Attention-Deficit Workaholic —slow, deliberate and methodical. You’re distinguished by your low work initiation and low work completion. You’re a consummate perfectionist, terrified deep down that the finished project is never good enough. You also have difficulty recognising when something is incomplete or finished. Therefore, you inadvertently prolong and create additional work when you’re almost finished with a task.
It is difficult to treat work addiction in a culture that rewards engaging in workaholic behaviours. According to recent research, it is the most socially acceptable form of addiction. Yet, work addiction can result in various negative consequences, including burnout, depression, substance abuse and family problems. Put your mental health first and seek help.
Psychology Today: https://www.psychologytoday.com/za/blog/the-right-mindset/201907/the-many-faces-work-addiction
Career Cast: https://www.careercast.com/career-news/truth-about-workaholics
Project Know: https://www.projectknow.com/behavioral-addictions/work-addiction/