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Why ‘Workaholic’ is a Good Word Now

Apr 30, 2012 2:35:20 AM


Doesn’t the term ‘workaholic’ infer a chemical dependency to ‘workahol?’ Thanks to a recent study by Wilmar Schaufeli, a professor of work and organizational psychology at Utrecht University in the Netherlands, people are beginning to conceive a whole new outlook on workaholism. A diverse group of 1,246 Dutch workers were the target of his research, aiding in the creation of a revelatory new classification system for the different types of employees in the workplace. Once a term used to describe grim, driven personalities, burying themselves in work until they inevitably burn out, Schaufeli’s analysis of the workaholic anticipated the birth of a new term: the ‘Engaged Workaholic.’

Wilmar Schaufeli and his research team argue that employee personalities can be broken down into four categories:

  • The slackers
  • Engaged workers
  • The classic workaholics
  • Engaged workaholics

The engaged workaholic is said to be one who throws themselves into their work simply because they love it. According to their findings, in comparison to classic workaholics who bury themselves in work either for pay, prestige or simply out of guilt; the engaged workaholic is less likely to burn out and suffer from stress issues long term. Look at it as push vs. pull. Quoting Schaufeli, while the classic workaholic is “pushed” to work, the engaged workaholic is “pulled” to it. To negate the feelings of severe guilt and restlessness that come along with doing anything besides work, workaholics get their fix by allowing themselves to be pulled right back into it. Meanwhile, engaged workaholics look forward to every chance they get to pour themselves into doing what they love. This results in a scarcity of negative associations which could have caused them to feel pushed towards the work in the first place.

The challenge now is for HR to weed out the engaged from the classic in their interview process, and staff their teams with these hopelessly devoted individuals. Inspiration breeds motivation, and if that doesn’t make for a happy work place, we don’t know what will!

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