BREAKING WORKAHOLISM IN THE UNITED STATES — ONE HOUR AT A TIME
“If I just work as hard as I can for as long as I can, I will be financially successful.”
“If I just get “x” amount of money, then I will feel safe, secure, content, and have everything I’ve ever wanted.”
“If I don’t accomplish all my business and financial goals, I will be a failure.”
“I need to work excessively and personally ensure my business is a success to an extreme degree in order to support my family.”
“Everyone else around me seems to consistently work 60–80 hours a week, so it’s ok that I do too.”
“I often refuse to take vacations, miss work when I’m sick, and stay at work later than everyone else to prove how dedicated I am to my job and being a success.”
Any of these underlying beliefs and thought patterns sound familiar to you?
Some you may have adopted or internalized over the years, as they have likely been passed onto you from societal or cultural standards without you even being aware of it.
I know they certainly have for both myself and many of the working population in the United States.
A few years ago, I did a 5 week workshop series focused on business development, and one of the topics I felt really passionate about addressing was “Workaholism and Self Worth.”
In a portion of the presentation, I addressed ‘Workaholism’ as being not only pervasive in our culture, but in my opinion, one of the most socially accepted forms of addiction we face in the United States.
Think about it for a minute.
Are you putting in 75–80 hours a week in the office because you really need to finish an “important” project?
Many employers, colleagues, and other professionals will view you as being ‘dedicated,’ and may even verbally acknowledge or congratulate you for your hard work.
Don’t spend any time with your spouse, family, or friends because you’re always working?
Don’t have the necessary time to dedicate to other important life areas, such as recreation, individual hobbies, volunteering time with your children’s activities, health and wellness, vacations, and personal self -care?
Often, the people in your social circle will be sympathetic to these challenges, for the majority are overworking themselves.
I mean, you’re just trying to sacrifice and support your family….. right?
Now substitute the concept of someone having a gambling addiction that creates a similar amount of neglect, emotional unavailability, and abstinence with your family, and the whole game changes.
Sure, the workaholic is earning money for their family, while the gambler is most likely not (at least not likely over a sustained period) — yet the negative effects on the family — and the person with the addiction, can be just as negative.
Workaholism in the U.S. is no laughing matter, and given the continued ‘eradication’ of the middle class, it doesn’t look like it’s going to change anytime soon.
Below are 3 of the biggest things I believe are fueling workaholism:
The United States is considered an “individualistic society.” By definition, it is a society which is characterized by individualism, which is the prioritization, or emphasis, of the individual over the entire group. Individualistic cultures are oriented around the self, being independent instead of identifying with a group mentality.
Not to get too far into this concept, but my opinion is that this way of thinking and living (in its more extreme form) is what fuels an over-competitive and ‘I’m separate from others’ mindset, which can potentially explain creating larger gaps in wealth within the U.S. And, individualism can also fuel a deep seated obsession to “outwork” or “outperform” other people, so we can be the person who is #1.
I do believe a certain amount of competition and hard work ethic are beneficial in many situations, but when does it become too much?
I’ve personally found just how easy it is to wrap up our feelings of self –worth with our title, position, and the way we make a living.
What I’ve noticed more over the years, is that for many of us who are working well over 50 hours a week, with limited extracurricular and vacation time, are completely worn out to express ourselves in other outlets.
The other components are the ways we receive that societal validation and approval from our profession. One simple way this works is the validation of receiving financial compensation for our work — we may have a salary, and get certain bonuses and raises when we excel at our profession. The other is the “prestige” and “power” we may feel with a particular role or title that carries weight. Consider how someone like Barack Obama could easily be devastated at the end of his presidency if he was too attached to the title of being the president.
If we are too attached to our worth being wrapped up in just our title and profession, and can only see our skills and contribution in this arena, it will be that much more difficult for us to break away from the chains of workaholism.
Working Conditions and Company Policy
The U.S. is one of the harshest, if not the harshest developed country with the amount of vacation time and work flexibility we give employees. When leaders and management have ingrained a mindset of work being the #1, all-important area a human being needs to prioritize, it has the effect of coercing people into working themselves to the point of over exhaustion.
Where is the emphasis on blending other much needed areas of our life to consider- like quality recreational time with family and friends, self-care, wellness, emotional health, and taking a break when we are feeling over worked and overwhelmed?
“TAKING A VACATION MAY ACTUALLY SAVE YOUR CAREER” was an article published in June 2014 by New Republic Magazine which addressed this issue, and stated:
- The United States is the only advanced country that doesn’t guarantee its citizens will get paid vacation time and holidays.
- European countries ensure at least 20 days of paid vacation per year, with some going as high as 30 days.
- Nearly a quarter of Americans are without any access to paid vacation time.
- Twenty-two of other developed countries ensure paid sick leave.
- When a couple in the U.S. adopts a child or has a newborn, they’re only guaranteed 12 weeks of unpaid time off, and that’s if they qualify — 40 percent don’t (unlike virtually every other developed country that guarantees paid leave).
Stay tuned for part two of this article, where I will go over some of the ways we can break workaholism, one hour at a time.
As featured on Recruiter.com,WorkitDaily, Human Talent Network, and KTLA Los Angeles Channel 5 morning news as an expert on Career Transition and Optimizing LinkedIn: Scott Engler, author of “The Job Inner-View,” and “Legends of the Recruiting and Career World,” has spent years utilizing, researching, and collaborating with the top LinkedIn experts and ambassadors on how to optimize LinkedIn for professional networking and career development.
During that time, he has published dozens of articles, and received “Managers Choice” awards for several on LinkedIn.
In 2016, Scott was selected by the staff at LinkedIn as a thought leader and industry expert for their new “LinkedIn ProFinder” feature on the site and was selected as a keynote speaker at a professional development conference in Eugene, Oregon.
Scott currently runs his own online business “B.Y.O.B.” Coaching & Consulting, where he helps individuals and groups with Career Transition and LinkedIn Personal Branding services. He also works for Recruiter.com as a consultant and thought leader on LinkedIn Professional Branding and Career Development.
For inquiries regarding business opportunities to hire him on as a public speaker, LinkedIn branding/networking strategy, or workshop facilitator, connect with him on LinkedIn at or email him at BuildingYourOwnBrand@gmail.com