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Home > Health
 
Working to the bone

Samineh I Shaheem (Out of Mind) / 26 May 2012

When we think about addictive behaviours, the connotations are mostly negative since the consequences of fixations are essentially harmful.

But being a compulsive worker, or workaholic, tends to be seen as positive since the result of this addiction seems to be bonuses, the promotions and the glory at work. Therefore although this is a condition present and acknowledged across cultures, it is not routinely detected and often times realised a little too late.

The positive reinforcement in the form of verbal praise and rewards keep strengthening the addiction, making the cycle quite difficult to break. What’s ironic is that the workaholic doesn’t always succeed nor do they preform exceptionally better than others. Not because they are not competent, but due to the psychological prison this addiction creates. Of course this perceived success at work comes with a huge price, both physically and psychologically.

Workaholism applies to people in the UAE since working and being an employee is the primary reason many people, especially expatriates, have sojourned or migrated here and therefore a significant amount of their focus and energy goes towards this objective. Long work hours, inability to balance work and private life, multi-tasking, unclear job descriptions, power distances as well as working in a dynamic and culturally diverse environment can also add to the every day challenges of the work world, eventually resulting in burnout or exhaustion.

Signs of a workaholic include:

1.    Can’t stop thinking about work

2.    You are very controlling and don’t like to delegate

3.    You have a troubled personal life

4.    You are never fully disconnected from work

5.    Always drawn to work issues, even when home

6.    Dread weekends because you can’t work as much

7.    No other activity satisfies you as much as work

8.    You lose sleep planning and strategising before sleeping and sometimes even in the middle of the night

9.    Do not take regular holidays

10. Suffer from regular colds or headaches

There are many advantages to being a dedicated and hard working employee. Of course the distinction should be made in that working passionately and deriving satisfaction, does not make someone a work addict.  Workaholism sets in when our work becomes the most important aspects of our identity and activities, notably neglecting all other facets of our personal life.  There aren’t many pros to this situation. However there are plenty of cons including long term physical and psychological ailments as well as an inability to nurture other relationships and domains of one’s life. 

Anyone struggling with work addiction could benefit from help to learn to work smarter and more efficiently, rather than longer and dysfunctional.

The following steps may help prepare a friend or loved one interested in confronting a workaholic.

  • Learn as much as possible about the psychological addiction
  • Seek advice and counsel from trained addiction and compulsive behaviour experts
  • Develop a calm, loving and rational plan to confront the friend about his or her compulsive disorder
  • Explore treatment options and prepare a possible path to recovery
  • Speak clearly about the effects the workaholic disease has on your life
  • Offer to walk through the treatment process with your loved one and assure him or her that you are there to help
  • Along with your counselor develop proper and healthy treatment outcome goals

Remember, learning more results in living more…over to you…


Samineh I Shaheem is an author, an assistant professor of psychology, currently lecturing in Dubai, as well as a cross-cultural consultant at HRI. She has studied and worked in different parts of the world, including the USA, Canada, UK, Netherlands, and the UAE. She co hosts a radio program (Psyched Sundays 10-12pm) every Sunday morning on Dubai Eye discussing the most relevant psychological issues in our community. 

Please forward your thoughts and suggestions for future articles to OutOfMindContact@gmail.com


 

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