Some employees who spend a lot of time at work have the image of people who are passionate about their job. But, without realizing it, they can fall into an addiction and become “workaholics”. This addiction, still poorly recognized, is often linked to negative emotions, according to a study which lifts the veil on the psychology of workaholics.
Although many studies focus on “workaholics”, they often draw contrasting conclusions about them. Some say that workaholics are plagued by very negative emotions, ranging from stress to hostility, while others suggest that they enjoy their work, despite their addiction.
To get a more precise idea of their motivations, an Italian research team conducted a scientific experiment, published in the Journal of Occupational Health Psychology, involving 139 full-time employees. The researchers asked them to answer a questionnaire assessing their degree of work addiction, before analyzing their mood and their perception of their workload using the experience sampling method. Volunteers were required to complete short forms every 90 minutes from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. for three working days (Monday, Wednesday and Friday).
This experimental protocol revealed that employees who are the most addicted to their work are more unhappy than those who manage to take a step back from their career. They consistently maintain a more negative mood throughout the day, without significant variations attributed to the passage of time or fluctuations in workload. This can be explained by the fact that addiction often leads to emotional flattening, that is, an inability to feel emotions in situations that, by their nature, should arouse them.
Working too much means danger
For Professor Cristian Balducci, lead author of the study, these results contradict the preconceived idea according to which “workaholics” take pleasure in working tirelessly. “It does not seem that people dependent on work derive more pleasure from their professional activity; on the contrary, our observations seem to confirm that, as in other forms of behavioral and substance-related addiction, the initial euphoria gives way to a negative emotional state that permeates the person even when they are at work” she said in a statement.
Professor Cristian Balducci and his colleagues urge companies not to encourage their employees to work more than necessary. In addition to being counterproductive, this behavior can quickly become out of control and have serious repercussions on the physical and psychological health of the people who adopt it (sleep disorders, headaches, hypertension, overwork, social isolation, etc.).
“Organizations must send clear signals to workers on this issue and avoid encouraging a climate where after-hours and weekend work is seen as the norm. On the contrary, it is necessary to foster an environment that discourages excessive and dysfunctional investment in work, by promoting disconnection policies, specific training on the subject and psychological support.“, affirms Professor Cristian Balducci in the same press release.