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Are you obsessed with your job?

  • Story Highlights
  • Working more than 40 hours per week can be an indication of workaholism
  • Another sign: Long hours are hurting your personal relationships
  • Workaholism is a dependence on work that hurts relationships, health
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By Mary Lorenz
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( -- It's 9 p.m., and you're still at the office.


You promised your spouse that tonight was the night you'd be home by 6 p.m.

After all, you haven't even made it home for dinner since... come to think of it, you can't remember the last time you were home before 10 p.m. or your dinner didn't consist of processed vending machine fare.

But it's not your fault, you tell yourself. If you don't do it, who will?

Putting in a little overtime is one thing, but how do you know when "enough" is too much?

According to Workaholics Anonymous (WA), working more than 40 hours per week can be an indication of workaholism.

Taking your work home with you, fearing that a lack of hard work will get you fired, and letting your personal relationships suffer from the long hours you put in are three more indicators of workaholic behavior, WA says.

The concept of workaholism has always been controversial. After all, who is to say you don't just love your job or are a hard worker?

"A workaholic is not the same as a person with a strong work ethic," says Dr. Eric Darr, provost and associate professor of management at Harrisburg University of Science and Technology. "A workaholic is someone who can't balance his or her life and tends to believe that everything is important all the time."

Despite the advent of such devices as the BlackBerry, cell phone and personal data assistant, which enable employees to work from anywhere, people should still feel able to make room in their lives for other things such as developing family and social relationships.

"Workaholism is unrelated to how people feel about their jobs. It's about their behavior," adds Pete Mudrack, assistant professor of management at Kansas State University.

Mudrack says two major indications of workaholic behavior are spending time thinking of ways to do one's job better and getting involved in others' business.

"We always talk about continuous improvement, but no one is really required to spend time thinking about that," he says.

Mudrack defines workaholism as an unhealthy dependence on work that, like other addictions, can hurt one's relationships, personal life and even health. Not only is workaholic behavior damaging to the individual who exhibits it, but it can be a destructive element in the office as well, Darr says.

If employees are unable to balance their professional and personal lives, the chances are likely that they won't be able to manage tasks and activities at work either.

Workaholics are so focused on finishing a project that they fail to plan, prioritize or seek more creative solutions.

"Having an office full of workaholics is like having a yard full of moles," he says. "They start tunneling, but not in the same or best direction."

Unfortunately, like other addictions, workaholism often entails denial that the dependence exists. Unlike other addictions, workaholics don't necessarily have the luxury to quit working in order to overcome their habit.

But recovery groups such as WA offer support and counseling for people who want to help either themselves or their loved ones balance their personal and work lives. WA even offers a 12-step recovery program (modeled after the Alcoholics Anonymous program), regional group meetings and a seasonal online newsletter for continued support.

Think you might have an addiction to work?

Ask yourself the following questions from If you answer "yes" to three or more, you may be a workaholic.

How Do I Know If I'm A Workaholic? Here are 20 questions to ask yourself:

Do you get more excited about your work than about family or anything else?

Are there times when you can charge through your work and other times when you can't?

Do you take work with you to bed? On weekends? On vacation?

Is work the activity you like to do best and talk about most?

Do you work more than 40 hours a week?

Do you turn your hobbies into money-making ventures?

Do you take complete responsibility for the outcome of your work efforts?

Have your family members or friends given up expecting you on time?

Do you take on extra work because you are concerned that it won't otherwise get done?

Do you underestimate how long a project will take and then rush to complete it?

Do you believe that it is OK to work long hours if you love what you are doing?

Do you get impatient with people who have other priorities besides work?

Are you afraid that if you don't work hard you will lose your job or be a failure?

Is the future a constant worry for you even when things are going very well?

Do you do things energetically and competitively including play?

Do you get irritated when people ask you to stop doing your work in order to do something else?

Have your long hours hurt your family or other relationships?

Do you think about your work while driving, falling asleep or when others are talking?

Do you work or read during meals?

Do you believe that more money will solve the other problems in your life? E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

Copyright 2009. All rights reserved. The information contained in this article may not be published, broadcast or otherwise distributed without the prior written authority

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