The emotional well-being of workaholics tends to be inferior to that of others, even when they are immersed in their greatest passion—work. A study featured in the Journal of Occupational Health Psychology, conducted by Cristian Balducci, a professor at the Department for Life Quality Studies at the University of Bologna (Rimini Campus), in collaboration with Dr. Luca Menghini from the University of Trento and Prof. Paola Spagnoli from the University of Campania 'Luigi Vanvitelli', sheds light on this parallel between workaholism and other addictions like gambling or alcoholism.
Professor Balducci elaborates, stating that the negative mood observed in workaholics may signify heightened daily stress levels, potentially leading to an increased risk of burnout and cardiovascular issues for these individuals. Additionally, given that workaholics often occupy positions of responsibility, their negative emotional state could easily impact that of their colleagues and co-workers. This presents a risk that organizations should seriously address, intervening to discourage behaviors contributing to workaholism.
Work addiction, a well-documented phenomenon, involves individuals engaging in excessive and compulsive work patterns. This genuine obsession has detrimental effects on health, psychological well-being, and relationships with family and friends.
WORKAHOLISM AND EMOTIONAL FLATNESS
In an effort to illuminate this aspect, researchers engaged 139 full-time workers in the study, primarily involved in back-office activities. The evaluation began with the application of a psychological test to gauge the participants' degree of work dependency. Subsequently, scholars scrutinized the workers' moods and their perception of workload using the "experience sampling method." This involved the utilization of a mobile app installed on the participants' phones, allowing them to submit brief questionnaires approximately every 90 minutes, spanning three working days (Monday, Wednesday, and Friday).
The gathered data reveals that the most workaholic individuals generally experience a more unfavorable mood than their counterparts," states Prof. Balducci. "Contrary to the notion that individuals addicted to work derive greater pleasure from their professional activities, the results suggest the opposite. Similar to other forms of behavioral and substance addiction, the initial euphoria appears to give way to a negative emotional state that persists even during work."
The findings also indicate that workaholics, unlike their peers, consistently maintain a more negative mood throughout the day, with no significant fluctuations attributed to time passage or workload variations. The reduced reactivity of mood to external stimuli signifies a pronounced emotional flattening, a well-established phenomenon in various types of addictions.
Luca Menghini, the researcher at the University of Trento and the study's primary author, suggests, "This aspect could arise from the workaholic's inability to moderate work engagement, leading to a substantial decrease in disconnection and recovery experiences, coupled with the concurrent reinforcement of a negative affective tone.
WOMEN AND WORKAHOLISM
Another noteworthy finding from the study highlights gender differences. The connection between work addiction and negative moods was more noticeable in women than in men, suggesting that women may be more susceptible to workaholism.
Scholars propose that this susceptibility could be linked to an increased role conflict experienced by workaholic women, navigating between an internal inclination to over-engage in their work and external pressures stemming from deeply ingrained gender expectations in our culture.
RISKS AND COUNTERMEASURES
These findings underscore the hazards associated with workaholism. Work addiction can have significant adverse effects not only on relationships with family and friends but also on one's physical and psychological well-being. The emergence of "overwork illnesses" can escalate to the point of resulting in death from overwork, a phenomenon with a considerable case history today.
"Organizations should communicate clear messages to employees on this issue and avoid promoting an environment where working beyond regular hours and on weekends is considered the norm," Professor Balducci concludes. "On the contrary, it is essential to cultivate an atmosphere that discourages excessive and dysfunctional devotion to work, advocating for disconnection policies, specific training initiatives, and counseling interventions."
The study, titled "Uncovering the Main and Interacting Impact of Workaholism on Momentary Hedonic Tone at Work: An Experience Sampling Approach," was published in the Journal of Occupational Health Psychology.
Numerous studies highlight that those grappling with work addiction often experience a sense of unwellness. This is frequently accompanied by negative emotions such as hostility, anxiety, and guilt when they are unable to work as extensively as they desire. However, there are conflicting views on the emotional experiences of workaholics while at work. Some studies suggest that workaholics feel a sense of well-being and satisfaction during the workday, while other research indicates that these positive emotions can swiftly give way to a predominant dysphoric state marked by irritation and depression.