The Dependency of Work – work to live or live to work?

images (24)Now I have to admit the title is quite provocative but hopefully posed an interesting question for you. That question then is, are some of us dependant or even addicted to work and working? We may be perhaps but for many different reasons. Our life choices will probably mean we need to earn money to pay for a mortgage, a car, food etc, all pretty legitimate reasons to be in employment of course. Our patriotic contribution toward national taxation will support our countries economic status and services etc. So all worthy and wholesome activities to be engaged in. However, do we trade the security of paid employment for the dependency we then have on our employer?  Do we sometimes experience poor self esteem and lack of confidence that drives us toward poor mental wellbeing; as a result become addicted to the work we do?

Whist cogitating for this blog, I stumbled across a recent article by Adrian Furnham “Work Addiction” that seemed to trigger off a few more thoughts of my own. These latent thoughts had been there for some time, following my work designing & delivering employability programmes, meeting & coaching many people along the working spectrum. There is a balance between enjoying work and being enthusiastic about what you do, toward tipping over into distorted career & personal thinking, overwork, job insecurity, perfectionism and over competitiveness is difficult and may well depend upon circumstance and work culture.

The need to continually prove oneself in conjunction with an organisation that encourages rampant competition & toxic presenteeism, is likely to encourage the addictive and dependant work attitudes and beliefs. Thus a work-life balance is disapproved of and actively discouraged by the organisation and group culture. As Mr Furnham suggests ‘Studies on workaholics showed they held various beliefs. Work is about win-lose not win-win’. ‘ nice guys finish last’; ‘you prove yourself at work’. They strive against others and certain targets”. Easy to then imagine the link between poor organisational culture and addictive & dependant behaviours for the employee.

So the workaholic may well be addicted to work or more to the point the bolster it gives the poor confidence and self-esteem, job insecurity, competitiveness, control freakery and other distinct issues. Work over 50/60 hours per week these days suggests then there may well be addictive or dependant tendencies, but how can anyone recognise the signs.

  • Perhaps find it difficult to switch off and give more time to work than is necessary
  • Needing approval and the constant need for affirmation, power and position
  • Mobile devices on all day & night for the fear of missing out (FOMO) on important news or information
  • Compelled to “work to finish” regardless of the work/life consequences
  • Poor family & personal relationships
  • Stress and other health related conditions

Many symptoms that we all recognise at one point or another I am sure. Question is what do we do about it now that we are embedded in the highly pressurised work environments today. Primarily, knowing thy self can help. Take the cognitive behavioural models that help individuals recognise the events or the work is having an effect upon negative thinking styles (catastrophising), how you feel (stressed, anxious), the physical changes (feeling sick, headaches and nauseous) and behavioural ramifications to the environment. Indeed, the behaviour change can emanate its self in unhealthy self medication with drink or smoking. Though more to the point be able to recognise the toxic events and take action to mediate them with positive and active problem solving and actions.

With our coaching support or self-help, this model will help you understand the reason for the work dependency and either support a transition toward healthier work/life balance or coming to terms with the work you do and managing it accordingly. Also consider mindfulness, stress relieving exercise, socialising with friends and family and any other activities that can help regain a sense of perspective between the work and life balance.

Of course no one size fits all, though it is clear enjoyable and fulfilling work, whatever you do is beneficial for wellbeing. Being dependant & addicted to your work with all the consequences may not be, that will sadly have a negative impact on both the person concerned and the people around them too.  So is it working to live or living to work…………..over to you!

 References
A Furnham, In Psychology Today, Work Addiction – A Sideways View (Accessed 2/06/2014) http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/sideways-view/201405/work-addiction
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