Both the absorbed worker and the workaholic have difficulty disengaging from work. The major difference is the underlying motivation.
Everyone knows someone who is a workaholic. Perhaps that someone is you. Workaholics work very hard. They work long hours. They work and work and work to the exclusion of nearly all else in their life. What, then, is the difference between someone who is a bona fide workaholic and someone who is simply but tenaciously absorbed by what they do? If either one is healthy, which one? Can both be bad for you?
Work absorption is one of the three attributes or hallmarks of work engagement, the others being vigor and dedication. Workers totally absorbed by their work is what every employer wants. For the sake of work enjoyment, feeling absorbed by one’s work is what every employee wants.
If you are absorbed by your work, you are complete immersed in what you do. You love what you do. You can’t wait to do what you do. You are constantly and proudly telling other people, “Look at what I get to do!”
You are demonstrating to the world who you are by what you do because a large part of what you do is who you are.
While looking at someone who is completely absorbed by their work, it often becomes difficult to decide if they are working or if they are playing. When fully engaged in work a completely absorbed worker may have to be reminded to take a break, to eat or that it is time to go home. They have found happiness and contentment on the corner one of the main avenues of their life — meaningful work.
More than likely, a truly absorbed individual is fully utilizing their unique set of natural talents and abilities to the fullest. They have become a fully elaborated version of themselves.
Workaholics, on the other hand, tend to feel driven in some way to do what they do. It is a matter of compulsion, not enjoyment. They may or may not feel happy with their work. In fact, dissatisfaction seems to run high and they can often be heard complaining about, “how much I have to do.”
Here are some of the major differences between an individual who feels absorbed by what they do and a workaholic:
|Generally extremely happy with work.Feels pulled in by work.|
Feels compelled to work, but freely.
Often oblivious to the time.
Works hard because it’s fun.
Works precisely and effectively.
Fully engaged in work.
Most likely their life is in balance.
|Generally dissatisfied with work.Feels pushed toward work.|
Races against the clock.
Works hard, even when it’s not fun.
Works excessively and ineffectively.
Can easily suffer burnout.
Likely their life is out of balance.
Both the absorbed worker and the workaholic have difficulty disengaging from work. However, the motivations underpinning the difficulty in disengaging are much different. The absorbed worker has difficulty because work is so much fun. The workaholic has difficulty because the underlying motivation is a compulsion to work, not enjoyment.
It should now be crystal clear, being and feeling absorbed is a happier and healthier state in which to work than workaholism. There is one caveat, though. Anything which is good for you can become bad for you in excess.
People who are fully engaged in their work, as reflected by vigor, dedication and absorption, can become workaholic if they are not careful. All work and no outside play will make Jack or Jane eventually hate their jobs, even if work seems like play. A well rounded life rolls along with the least effort.
The key is to strike a balance between one’s work life, family life, and social life, taking care to not let one become overriding causing another to suffer. All four realms — mental, emotional, physical and spiritual — want and need attention. Each supports the other. Let one suffer and all will suffer.
Even if you feel completely absorbed with your work, take the time to enjoy all of what life has to offer. Never work until you feel it is all done or like you must do it all now. Leave something at work undone for tomorrow. Leave some room for creative, innovative, possibility thinking. Create a little tension, a sense of anticipation for what comes next.
In so doing, there will never be any real dread about returning to work. With an almost tranquil anxiousness you will look forward to getting back to the work you love, feeling blessed you have it to do.
Do you feel absorbed by your work or are you more of a workaholic? Are you doing your life’s work, what you were called to do, using your own natural and unique set of talents and abilities? If you feel you are more of a workaholic, have you considered making some changes to this one life you’ve been given?
It is possible to find purposeful work for which you are passionate, to feel truly engaged as exemplified by vigor, dedication and absorption. Check back here for future posts concerning how.
Originally Published on Clark Gaither
Photo: Getty Images