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#Microblog Mondays 96: Addicted to Work

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CNN recently asked me if I was addicted to work.  (I like to think that all headlines that reference the pronoun “you” are speaking solely to me.)  Um… I’m not addicted to work, though I am addicted to staying employed and being paid.

When asked of the general population instead of a specific case, it’s a question rooted in privilege.  Everyone I know who gives extra hours to work are doing so because they feel insecure in their position.  They’ve either been through unemployment and think doing extra work or giving their job extra attention will protect them from a layoff (or, at the very least, it’s the only thing they can control in a situation outside of their hands) or they want to convey how dedicated they are to their work place.  If they could be guaranteed by their employer that they would be retained as long as they did their job well, they would relax and work normal hours.

But no employer makes that guarantee.  And employers benefit from their employees feeling as if they need to go above and beyond for no extra pay.

Sure, there are some who throw themselves into their work to avoid other stressors and many who don’t mind extra hours because they love their position, but I think the vast majority of “addicted to work” employees are more addicted to knowing they have a paycheck coming and they’ve chosen a job they enjoy.

What are your thoughts?


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1. Shailaja 10. Loribeth (The Road Less Travelled) 19. Ke Anne
2. Mom Pharm D 11. Empty Arms, Broken Heart 20. Virginia
3. Good families do – Jenn 12. Geochick 21. Mali (A Separate Life)
4. Persnickety 13. Isabelle 22. Mali (No Kidding)
5. Middle Girl 14. Cristy 23. Kechara
6. Jess 15. Journeywoman 24. Mary Francis
7. the OCD infertile 16. Traci York, Writer
8. Unpregnant Chicken 17. Just Heather
9. Shilpa 18. torthúil



1 Jessica { 06.27.16 at 6:16 am }

I would work to live, rather than live to work. Enjoying the chosen work is a bonus to oneself.

2 Shailaja Vishwanath { 06.27.16 at 7:21 am }

This is very interesting, actually. I will admit I work because I want to, out of choice and not because I have to, from a financial perspective. So I got to choose a job that I love, offers flexi hours and although the pay isn’t on par with the corporate sector, it’s something I enjoy doing. A large part of my job is also closely linked to what I love- social media and blogging, so I probably am a teeny bit addicted to work, I suppose. That is again, out of choice and not compulsion.

3 Mom PharmD { 06.27.16 at 7:33 am }

I have a hard time knowing what to do with myself if I’m not working but if I’m working extra and I planned it, it’s exactly as you describe. I am terrified of going back to homeless and then grasping for the next meal and trying to find a way to keep my kid fed without her realizing that nobody else ate. Sometimes I’m terrified, other times I just really want to avoid going back there. I hate that my employer gets so much free labor out of me and I do sometimes try to resist working outside normal hours but I mostly fail.

4 Persnickety { 06.27.16 at 7:53 am }

I do know that I need to have something to work on, so I do want to work, but I don’t like overworking. I feel lucky that I work in an office and a country where I feel that I can push back on working too much. In part this is because I know some of my co-workers get paid more than I do, so I feel no guilt when they work on the weekend- I do not get paid for that.
I wish that people did not feel compelled to work those extra hours.

5 Middle Girl { 06.27.16 at 8:02 am }

Addicted? No. Necessary? Yes. I work extra hours to earn PTO. I work extra hours because there is so much paperwork and I am not comfortable being buried by paperwork. I work extra hours because I am new(ish) to the employer and the industry and feel there is still so much to learn.

6 Jess { 06.27.16 at 8:19 am }

Hmmm. I like to work, I love what I do, and I do spend extra hours doing it. It is a privilege to be able to do that though…seeing as how I am very, VERY lucky to have a teaching job. Although, lately we have more of a teacher shortage than a surplus because of all the new teacher prep pieces and performance review brou-ha-ha that ties our “scores” right to tests, but that’s something else. I enjoy working, and I work a lot of hours during the school year (and in the summer to be honest) for the sake of my students, but I do think that it’s a privilege to have work I care about to do.

7 Lavonne @ the OCD infertile { 06.27.16 at 8:29 am }

I have been laid off twice very unexpectedly. I have found that in my new job it makes me incredibly anxious when there are closed doors now and I have a hard time feeling left out of conversations. It’s made me very jumpy to get called into the bosses office (even though it’s always nothing of real importance) and it makes it hard for me to enjoy a little slow time at work. I just have to keep reminding myself that I made it through those two job changes and could hopefully do the same if it happened again…

8 Cristy { 06.27.16 at 9:31 am }

Yes about the working more because of the uncertainty about job security. Grey and I are both dealing with this (and have been for awhile). When you don’t feel secure, you’re willing to work those extra hours and go that extra mile to stand out in hopes of somehow avoiding being cut or to secure future opportunities. It feels like a necessary evil.

The problem is, after years of doing this, we’re both burnt out. And those extra hours haven’t always secured good opportunities. It’s both frustrating and results in loss of loyalty. Something that those in power have lost sight of as they chase the all mighty dollar at all costs while demanding things of their employees they themselves refuse to do.

9 Nicoleandmaggie { 06.27.16 at 9:41 am }

… I’m a tenured academic…

10 Geochick { 06.27.16 at 10:23 am }

In my field, the “addicted to work” people are usually the people who are really into their work vs. those who are afraid of losing their jobs (I also work in an organization where it’s hard to get fired but that’s another topic). I was fired from my first job out of college and found a new job and career 3 weeks later. I think that has shaped my attitude for better or worse. Since then, I have not stayed in work situations that were bad for me simply to hold onto a job, and at this point in my career, I have nothing to worry about (or so I think). Intellectually, I know what I’m worth, I know how much I want to work, and I know that I need work-life balance. Emotionally, I still get hung up on the “not good enough” mantra, but now I’m finally recognizing and believing that I am good enough, and in fact better than many. There’s always those who are super involved in the professional organizations, doing the extra research, getting the accolades, and that’s not me. I’m ok with that because I have a well-rounded life and they don’t.

11 Geochick { 06.27.16 at 10:25 am }

Nicoleandmaggie does that mean you’re resting on your laurels after years of busting your butt to get tenure? Or are you under so much pressure to publish that tenure means all you do is eat-breathe-drink-sleep work? Curious because academia is so much different than private or gov’t work. 🙂

12 Beth { 06.27.16 at 12:19 pm }

My “work” now is being a stay at home mom, so I’m probably addicted in the respect that I actually enjoy spending time with my kids (most days) and also feel a need to keep them alive and healthy, so I don’t have a whole lot outside of them in my life right now. But they’re little and I think that’s just how it is. I was not addicted to work when I was teaching. I was a good teacher, and I definitely worked extra hours outside of school, as most good teachers do. But I had no problem walking away. Addicted to work is definitely an interesting idea though.

13 Traci York { 06.27.16 at 1:47 pm }

Back when I first joined the workforce, I was addicted to the paycheck – in fact, I worked three part time jobs while still in high school, so I could earn money faster. The jobs weren’t terrible (kitchen help at nursing homes, and walking a neighbor’s dogs daily), but I can’t say that I loved them either. Still doing the stay-at-home-mother gig at the moment, but I get the feeling when I eventually reenter the workforce, if I did extra hours, it would be about the money, not the enjoyment of the job itself.

14 JustHeather { 06.27.16 at 2:30 pm }

Addicted? No. But I did really like my job for many years. It was challenging and different everyday, even if it was the same. There was layoffs, downsizing, outsourcing and my job/position has changed. I also became a mom. I would love to stay at home with my kids or at least have a part time job that I really liked. (I should probably look, if I want to do something else…) However, since I have a permanent position with my company, it is quite difficult to get rid of me. At least until the next round of layoffs happen. Work is what I do to get money to do other things.

15 Working mom of 2 { 06.27.16 at 2:33 pm }

Hmm…if you are an attorney working in biglaw or perhaps most firms there is the billable hour requirement…so working extra is not really a choice between unless you are choosing to be let go. I fortunately have a govt attorney job so no BH requirement but still, there are deadlines (court and other) in law and you gotta do what you gotta do based on what is on your plate which you may or may not have a say in…I have found myself putting in extra time this past year for those reasons…

16 Lori Lavender Luz { 06.27.16 at 5:14 pm }

I tend to do more than I need to, but it’s not because I’m afraid of losing my job. It’s more intrinsic than that. I’m addicted to keeping my ToDo List manageable.

I’ll go to great lengths to keep it from getting unmanageable. Fear-based, yes, but self-imposed.

17 KeAnne { 06.27.16 at 5:41 pm }

I work to live. I’ve been at my current org for almost 16 years and it has had its ups and downs. Since it is a state job, working overtime isn’t supported. Heck, sometimes trying to obtain flexibility to work from home or have an alternate schedule can be difficult. I find that now that D is in school, it is more difficult to work longer if necessary.

18 Mali { 06.27.16 at 6:48 pm }

Chance would be a fine thing!

I think there’s a difference to the addicted-to-work people than the afraid-not-to-work-hard-or-I-might-lose-my-job people. I think they’d be very happy not to work so hard and feel a bit more secure, and that doesn’t equal addiction in my book. I have however seen people whose addiction involves loving the work they do, loving the status it brings, love feeling busy, love feeling important, etc (as well as the avoidance issues you mentioned). Are they addicted to their work? Or are they addicted to what work gives them? Or is that one and the same?

It seems to me too – looking from afar – that focus on work is much more intense in the US, without the same social safety nets that we might have in other parts of the world, and with the much looser labour laws. Yes, lay-offs happen here, and frequently. (My husband lost his job a few years ago.) But there are laws about the circumstances around it, and simply firing someone is actually not easy.

19 torthuil { 06.27.16 at 9:13 pm }

I can get very caught up in a project at work and then it’s sort of an addiction. For example I am very excited about an idea I have for next year to teach vocational skills and I can’t wait to get things set up. Unfortunately it also means I have to clean and reorganize my classroom which is kind if a buzzkill because by the time I’m done I’ll have spent most of my time and energy.

20 chris { 06.28.16 at 12:39 am }

For me it’s more than fear of losing my job. Would I work if won the lottery? No. Do I absolutely need to work now? From a money standpoint no. From a marriage standpoint yes. My husband thinks it’s only fair. I tend to disagree with that since I do the lionshare of housework as well as working. But, if I don’t do it it doesn’t and won’t get done because he can and will live in squalor. It’s how he was raised and he sees nothing wrong with it. He thinks I have insanely high standards of cleanliness (I really don’t). Back to the work thing: I do have a very high work ethic. I was raised in family where work was what you did and you gave it your all. In my entire life my dad never took a vacation. He’s been “retired” for 15 years still works everyday with a consulting business he runs, I doubt he’ll ever retire completely because he still says he’s bored! (That I truly can’t imagine! There are plenty of things I’d love to do with that kind of free time….) But, I do have a work ethic that makes feel a little addicted- I’ve cancelled more vacations in the past few years because of last minute happenings at work, and anything I do gets 110% otherwise, well why bother? I was that way in school, playing sports, and at work. Perhaps it’s just part of being Type A.

21 Parul { 06.28.16 at 11:01 am }

I love my job and sometimes I am addicted to just close things. I don’t fear losing it but I fear falling short of the expectations that my company has of me.
Your post made me think, Mel. Good one!

22 a { 06.29.16 at 6:15 pm }

I gave extra when I was young and enthusiastic. Now, I just count the minutes until retirement. 🙂

I don’t work extra unless I’m getting overtime. I don’t take work phone calls at home – well, I RARELY take work phone calls at home. When I was in LA to tape Jeopardy, some attorney who forgot to send me a subpoena was frantically trying to find me to testify in court. One of my hilarious coworkers, when he heard about the situation, said “I’ll take Tough Shit for $200, Alex!” (Turns out, I wasn’t actually needed, and I did plan for the eventuality because I knew it was a possibility. But it was entirely dependent on my mood and their attitude – I didn’t have to get back to the guy, since I was on vacation. But I did, because someone mentioned something in passing months before. And I try not to be a jerk.) But I’m not addicted to my job, and since it’s pretty secure, I don’t need to impress anyone. I’ve been extremely lucky.

(c) 2006 Melissa S. Ford
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