Workaholic Culture: Good or Bad?

waLet’s face it; having a team of workaholics can be intoxicating.  Your team’s operating at a high level, making major accomplishments, being recognized… what’s not to love?  The problem is that it isn’t sustainable.  Sooner or later, and most often sooner, your team will hit a wall.  Burnout happens, resentment happens, and ultimately high turnover happens.   Unless you are running a team solely money-motivated and compensated on their performance (i.e. a sales department), it is nearly impossible to keep a happy team if it has no work/life balance.

This is counter-intuitive isn’t it?  We want workaholics.  We want our team to be available 24/7 and ready to drop anything for work.  We want the 34% of employed Americans who do not take all of their vacation days.  That’s dedication… right?  We love dedication.  So too does Hallmark as there is a National Workaholics Day (July 5th)…. what do you get someone who is a workaholic?  A day off, a third smart phone?

If you are trying to promote an environment where workaholics are expected and rewarded, you are sure to promote discord.  It’s not hard to picture… Betty doesn’t think Bobby works hard enough and others agree.  Bobby thinks Betty is crazy obsessive and should mind her own business… and others agree.  If you’ve setup an environment where you expect workaholics you have already chosen sides.  It won’t take long for your team to spiral downward into a dysfunctional, low-functioning group.

Another problem with creating a “workaholic” culture is that, whether you realize it or not, you are punishing some star performers.  Workaholics aren’t necessarily better at tasks, they just try harder and longer.  Give me a 40 hour worker who performs at a high level over the over-anxious to please, mediocre performing 60 hour worker (it is estimated there are 10 million Americans putting in at least 60 hours per week) every day.

Workaholics also tend to have worse health (including higher propensity for heart disease and job related injury or illness) and relationships outside of work are impacted at a higher clip.  Higher stress, longer hours and less sleep bring with them more that susceptibility to a cold. Workaholics are more prone to high blood pressure, stroke, heart disease, and neurological impacts from prolonged stress.  Your workaholic doesn’t help your business by being laid up in the hospital for a prolonged period of time, or worse.

And finally and most pragmatically, workaholics burnout.  They just do.  With a high rate of workaholics on your team, you will be faced with constant turnover and instability.  It is inevitable that you will have some workaholics on your staff – but try and promote a work/life balance and not the workaholic lifestyle… you’re sure to find a higher performing team if you do.

The moral of the story….at least this one is balance.  In this day and age, everyone needs balance.  There will be some weeks that we will need to put in 60-70 hours per week.  However, the human mind and soul needs a break in order to continue to bring in new ideas, provide exceptional service and function as expected.  So, workaholics…..take July 5th off like the rest of America and enjoy it!



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