Workaholic: Corporate Culture or Individual Personality?
How many hours do your employees put in each week? The standard forty, or more? People who are committed to their professions or who enjoy what they do are willing to spend more than the required number of hours at work. People who are overburdened feel compelled to stay late, even though they know the attempt to catch up will ultimately be futile. An occasional need for extra time and effort is certainly not unreasonable. But the employees who are the first to arrive and the last to leave, day in and day out, are headed for burnout. They are the ones who are addicted to their jobs, by choice or by default. And this, like all addictions, will eventually turn destructive.
You Set the Example
When employees are at work too long, they burn out and then they resent their jobs and other employees, as well as their managers, who either haven't rewarded them as much as they thought they deserved or don't seem to work as hard. This kind of commitment isn't dedication — it's lunacy. Are you setting the example? Then stop! Right now, today. Take out a piece of paper and write, “Today I will leave work at 5 P.M.” Sign it. There — it's a contract. Be gone at five, period. Pack your briefcase and head out the door. Let your employees see you leaving.
In a recent Gallup poll, 44 percent of those surveyed considered themselves workaholics, to the extent that work activities interfered with or prevented a life beyond their job. More than half of those who worked full time said they put in more than forty hours a week; the average number of hours worked was forty-six.
It is important for you to set the example you want your employees to follow. If you are a workaholic, most of them will be, too. It's fine if you don't have a life beyond work — that's your choice. But don't establish the expectation that your employees can't have personal lives. They might go along with you for a while, but eventually they'll rebel or burn out. Neither is pleasant.
Helping a Workaholic Employee
Do you have an employee who regularly burns the midnight oil? It's time to assess the reasons and get ready to find a comfortable way to discuss it with the employee. Make some observations and ask yourself a few questions to get to the bottom of the situation:
Why is the person working so many hours? Does this person have too much work, use his or her time during regular work hours inefficiently, or not want to go home?
If there are work-based problems, try to identify viable solutions. If the workload is too intense, how can you lighten it? If the employee has trouble prioritizing, what can you do to help?
Be supportive and nonjudgmental, yet firm. Make it clear that while you appreciate and respect such dedication, no one expects anyone to stay at work all the time.
Express your concern that the person might burn out, leaving you in dire need of the skills and talents only he or she can provide. What happens then? Neither the employee nor the company comes out ahead.
While the personal lives of your employees are none of your business, it is your responsibility to be sure they have the freedom to pursue them. No one should feel that a job owns any employee (not even you).