We all dream of having a job we love—one we’re eager to get to at the start of every day. But how far is too far? If your work is more important than your family, you may be venturing into dangerous territory. Workaholism is defined as a compulsive need to work, similar to obsessive-compulsive disorder. A driven career person can function outside of work, but a workaholic is so focused that their passion for work can undermine family relationships. Here are a few signs that you may be crossing over from hard worker to serious workaholic.
You only talk about work. Next time you’re in a social situation outside of work—a party, a family reunion, at the dinner table—monitor the things you talk about. Do you constantly bring up your job? Do you hope somebody new will ask you what you do, so you can talk about it? If work is the only thing you’re interested in talking about, it means it’s the only thing you think about—and your family and friends will definitely notice.
You’re constantly worried about the future. Do you often worry that you’ll go bankrupt, lose your house and car, or lose the ability to support your family? Many workaholics are driven by a fear that they’re close to losing it all—and even if they’re well off financially and well-liked at work, a disaster never seems far away. If this is a big worry for you—and if the worry doesn’t diminish with the size of your checking account—you may have a problem.
You’re always thinking about ways to make money.Many workaholics are very entrepreneurial, and they can’t just have fun with a hobby—they’re always looking for ways to turn fun activities into businesses. If you can’t relax without wondering how you could be capitalizing on your latest interest, you may have workaholic tendencies.
You consistently choose work over family. Think about the last time you had to pass up a family event for a work-related one: your child’s birthday, a date with your spouse, an important recital or game. If you’ve done it more than once or twice—and not for a very important reason, like you’d lose your job if you didn’t—you may be a workaholic. Even doing this a handful of times is enough to cause resentment among your family members, and no matter how well-paying or fulfilling your job is, it’s not worth damaging family relationships for.
You forget about non-work appointments and household tasks. And it’s not that you’re lazy—anything but. It’s just that you think so much about work that everything else escapes your notice. Dishes pile up in the sink, the garbage doesn’t get taken out, laundry doesn’t get done—many workaholics simply forget about basic chores, because they’re so single-minded they don’t notice what needs to be done outside of work. Workaholics also often forget about doctor’s appointments, parent-teacher night, and other important appointments and scheduled activities outside of work.
You get anxious when you’re not working. No matter where you are, you just can’t relax. If you can’t go to your child’s soccer game without your laptop, if you can’t unwind with a glass of wine at night and discuss your spouse’s day with interest, and if you can’t just take a walk, watch a TV show, or read a book without getting that anxious feeling that there might be an important email or voicemail you’re missing, you’re a workaholic.
You firmly believe that you can’t get it done right unless you do it yourself. Workaholics tend to want to keep firm control on every aspect of their jobs. That’s why they hate delegating. If you hate passing off tasks to employees or colleagues—even if it’s entirely appropriate and even expected that you do so—you may be a workaholic.
You hide how much work you do. Workaholics tend to “sneak” their work when they’re around friends and family. This is much easier to do nowadays with cell phones and BlackBerries that you can hide in a pocket. If you often lie to your spouse about taking work home or with you on trips, you may be a workaholic.
Workaholics often don’t realize the damage they’re doing to relationships with loved ones because they’re so focused on their jobs. If you’re not sure whether or not you fit the mold, do some listening. If you hear your kids saying they’d like you home more—and most kids are outspoken about this—or if you often fight with your spouse about the time you spend at work, you may have a problem. Most workaholics regret the time they lost with friends and family once they realize what they’ve been doing—and the sooner a workaholic realizes there’s a problem, the less he or she will have to regret.