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Are You a Workaholic?

By Eugene Raudsepp

Are you obsessed with your work? Is work dominating your life, replacing family, friends and outside interests? If you hesitate to say "no," think again. Your habits -- whether those of a workaholic or "Type A" personality -- may be jeopardizing your health and career.

First identified in 1959 by San Francisco cardiologists Meyer Friedman and Ray Rosenman, Type A describes common behavior patterns found among patients being treated for heart disease. Type A people share a chronic sense of urgency and have a tendency to be in constant overdrive. Because they suffer from "hurry sickness," they worry about every wasted moment. They display hostility in a traffic jam, anxiety when they miss the bus and impatience when they have to wait in line. They clench fists, bang tables, twist and fidget, often acting as if there is an emergency or a life-threatening situation.

At the office, Type-A personalities work hard and fast to achieve. They set backbreaking deadlines and frequently bring work home. They are highly competitive, impatient and prone to anger if someone gets in the way of their success. Rarely, if ever, are they able to leave the job at the office.

All of this fast-forward pace can exact a high price. Medical and psychological problems attributable to workaholism and stress have emerged as major health hazards. Reportedly, 50% to 80% of all diseases have their origins in stress, and eight of the top 10 causes of death are stress-related. Type A behavior has been accepted as the prime risk factor for heart disease by the American Heart Association and the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute. Workaholics steeped in Type A habits are prime candidates for stress-related illnesses including ulcers, high blood pressure and heart attacks.

Clearly, the possible risk of work obsession is high. There is a line to be drawn, however, between healthy, ambitious work habits and workaholism. You may be thinking, "I bring work home. Am I headed for disaster?" or, "I hate to wait in line at the movies. Does that mean I'm Type A?"

Copy and past the following link for a quiz that is designed to help you assess your work habits.

Check the answers that most accurately describe your behavior and feelings. Be honest. Frank answers will give you the most reliable feedback. If you discover you are walking a thin line between workaholism and healthy motivation, you may want to slow down and take a look at what your obsession is costing you.

-- From the archives of the National Business Employment Weekly. The late Mr. Raudsepp, who was president of Princeton Creative Research Inc., a Princeton, N.J., consulting firm, was a frequent NBEW contributor between 1984 and 1995. This article was selected for its continuing relevance.


From CareerJournal November 2004