Why Do People Become Workaholics?

By October 15, 2020 April 2nd, 2024 Self Management Tips

Last Updated on April 2, 2024 by Dave Schoenbeck

Why do people become workaholics? Working too much and the guilt or anxiety leaders feel if they don’t is pervasive in business culture. For many, putting in long hours and taking on too many responsibilities is the mark of a heroic warrior-leader, a way to prove one’s value in the workplace.

A workaholic businessman sleeping on his laptop keyboard

However, it’s unhealthy to work all the time. It will significantly affect your relationships. It will fray your nerves and your health. It can even impact your leadership style because you rarely trust anyone else to do the work. So then, to revisit the question: why do people become workaholics? To answer that, we must first discuss why workaholism is a problem. 

Effects of Being a Workaholic

Being a workaholic might give you some energy rush in the short run. It feels good to be productive, especially if you’re being praised for accomplishing so much quickly. However, over time, there are many severe drawbacks to overworking.

  • Workaholics don’t trust their teammates, leading to weakened workplace relationships.
  • Workaholics aren’t comfortable delegating.
  • Workaholics don’t train their staff well due to fear of delegating. Therefore the team is not fully competent.
  • Workaholics incorrectly believe that the harder they work, the more irreplaceable they are, leading to an unfortunate wake-up call if they are ever disciplined or fired.
  • Workaholics needlessly double down with more hours instead of investing in building efficiency.
  • Workaholics fail to realize how their habits affect their coworkers and staff.
  • Workaholics have a poor work-life balance.
  • Workaholics develop obsessive, perfectionistic tendencies.
  • Workaholics suffer from high levels of stress and burnout.

Why Do People Become Workaholics? How to Overcome Workaholism 

If the effects of workaholism are so damaging, why do people become workaholics? For many people, it’s a habit that’s tough to break. Once you start believing that working harder is the path to success, it can become almost a competition with yourself to see how far you can push it.

However, all is not lost. You can retrain your brain to shed some problematic behaviors and beliefs. Here are some tips for overcoming workaholism:

  • Be rigid about your business hours. Many workaholics check their work email from home, disrupting their time off and carrying work stress into their evenings. Promise you’ll leave your work at the office when it’s time to end the workday. 
  • Learn to say no. It’s healthy to set boundaries around the work that you do. If you have too much, be honest before taking on new responsibilities. Ask yourself if this request is the highest and best use of my talents. 
  • Embrace efficiency. Spending more time on a task doesn’t mean you do a better job. Instead, find ways to optimize your processes to accomplish the same results in less time. 
  • Delegate. As hard as it is to relinquish control of a project you care about, your employees will benefit from the chance to learn by doing. Moreover, assuming you hired competent people (which you should), the tasks will get done without your constant attention. 
  • Take vacations. It’s tough to step away, but studies have shown that taking a break can make you more productive and better handle your workload upon your return. Refusing to use your vacation time doesn’t make you a better employee or manager. It just makes you an unnecessary martyr. 

So why do people become workaholics? It can happen for various reasons, but the result is the same. If you’re struggling with workaholic relationship problems, a business coach can help. Please fill out my contact form for a complimentary coaching session to learn how to activate a better work-life balance.

Coach Dave


Dave Schoenbeck
Follow Dave