BOLOGNA, Italy — Workaholics are addicts who don’t really enjoy their jobs, a new study argues.
Previous studies have shown that workaholics commonly experience a sense of unwellness, often in combination with negative emotions such as hostility, anxiety, and guilt, when they don’t do as much work as they would like. Now, new research shows that the mood of workaholics – people who suffer from an addiction to their work – is generally worse than that of others, even when they are doing something they are passionate about — like their dream job.
“The negative mood observed in workaholics may indicate elevated daily stress levels and that could be the cause of the higher risk for these individuals to develop burnout and cardiovascular problems,” says Professor Cristian Balducci in a media release.
“Furthermore, considering that workaholics often hold positions of responsibility, their negative mood could readily influence that of colleagues and co-workers. This poses a risk that organizations should seriously consider, intervening to discourage behaviors that contribute to workaholism.”
To find out how addicts feel when they are working, the team from the University of Bologna performed a psychological test on 139 full-time workers. They then analyzed the mood of these workers throughout the day using an app on their phones.
“The collected data show that the most workaholic workers have on average a worse mood than the others,” says Prof. Balducci.
“So, it does not appear to be true that people who are addicted to work derive more pleasure from their work activity; quite the opposite, the results seem to confirm that, as in other forms of behavioral and substance addiction, the initial euphoria gives way to a negative emotional state that pervades the person even while at work.”
Additionally, they discovered that workaholics had a much more consistently negative mood throughout their day, regardless of external factors.
“This element could stem from the workaholic’s inability to moderate work investment, resulting in a significant decrease in disconnection and recovery experiences, and the parallel consolidation of a negative affective tone,” suggests Luca Menghini, a researcher at the University of Trento and first author of the study.
The results, published in the Journal of Occupational Health Psychology, also show that women are more vulnerable to workaholism than men, which the team expects to be a result of gender expectations still deeply rooted in our culture. The study authors believe that workaholism is dangerous and could even, in some cases, cause death.
“Organizations must send clear signals to workers on this issue and avoid encouraging a climate where working outside working hours and at weekends is considered the norm,” Prof. Balducci concludes.
“On the contrary, it is necessary to foster an environment that discourages excessive and dysfunctional investment in work, promoting disconnection policies, specific training activities and counseling interventions.”
South West News Service writer Isobel Williams contributed to this report.
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