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Are You a Classic Workaholic or an Engaged Workaholic?

You probably know someone who is a workaholic, a person who works very hard and works long hours compulsively (without being able to stop). When they’re not working, they may feel guilty, believing that they should be working and, if they don’t, they’ll fall behind (not have completed as much work as he or she should have). They may also feel restless, not being able to relax and always wanting to be doing something. These classic (traditional) workaholics are motivated by (driven by; want to do this because) external (outside of your body or mind) rewards, such as more money and admiration from others, or because they are afraid of bad consequences if they don’t work so much, such as losing their job or being thought of by others as lazy or incompetent (not able and knowledgeable). As you might have guessed, classic workaholics also suffer from health problems because of the stress (anxiety; feelings of nervousness) they’re under (they are experiencing).

But do you also know someone who works a lot and for long hours, but is very happy doing it? Some psychologists (professionals who study the mind) call these people “engaged workaholics,” people who have a healthy and positive passion (strong emotional feeling) for their work. (“Engaged,” in this case, means having your full attention and involvement.) The engaged workaholic may work hard, but he or she is not likely to burn out (ruin their health because of working too much) like classic workaholics. Rather than being under stress while working, engaged workaholics are happier when they’re working.

Not surprisingly, some scientists say that having control over the work helps determine whether you’re a classic or engaged workaholic. If you’re a CEO (Chief Executive Officer; main manager) of a company, you have a lot of demands on you (many requirements for your attention or action), but you also have a lot of control. If you have more control, the work may be more interesting and engaging. On the other hand, if you are in a demanding job with little control over what and how you do it, that’s a situation ready-made (made for) classic workaholism.

These ideas are not new, of course. Psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, who is originally from Hungary but who immigrated to (moved to to live) the U.S., has written a lot about the concept (idea) of “flow,” a mental state (way for your mind to be) where you’re completely involved in doing something that makes you feel energized (with a lot of energy) and happy, and time slips away (goes by without you realizing it). That activity may be anything, but usually you’re learning something new. If your work gives you flow, then it’s no wonder you’re an engaged workaholic.

Are you an engaged workaholic? Do you know anyone who is? Are there any activities at work or in your leisure (not working; relaxing) time that gives you flow?

~ Lucy

Picture Credit: Detail from “Labor” by C.S. Pearce, Library of Congress, PD

9 Responses to “Are You a Classic Workaholic or an Engaged Workaholic?”

  1. Vito Says:

    Thank you, Lucy. That is a very informative, interesting and well written article.

    Well, I ought to say that I get so-called ‘flow’ while listening to ESL podcast, reading and analyzing different texts in English and acquiring new vocabulary and some speaking skills. English is my drug and I’m a touch crazy about it so when I’m involved in learning English I lose track of time and understanding of what’s happening around me. They say the second language is rather hard to know perfectly but I don’t care and never take shortcuts. It’s just a matter of time before I will get enough knowledge in English and will speak fluently.

    The ugly truth is that I’m a bit afraid of speaking because of this barrier that mars my life and education.

    Don’t take it serious, I’m just a complaining creature. :D

    God bless you all.

  2. Dan Says:

    Hi Lucy.

    I would say that the passion at the workplace is not aways there. So, one has to change his her attitude towards it, learn how to see things differently.
    How? look all the episodes of Spongebob! simple as that. He is happy flipping burghers, while Mr.krub his employer is unhappy because he only thinks at making more money.

    At times I have experienced that Flow practising various activities. It feels good.

    Hello there Vito, nice reading from you.
    Could you please better explain your last statement. I did not get that. what is mars? and what’s the ugly truth? why are you afraid?
    Thanks in advance.

  3. Peter Says:

    To tell the truth, I m a lazy pants. I always find ways at work to slack off.
    I sleep on work a lot ,as a result. That is the main reason why I can’t keep a job for a long.
    Basically , I hate working.
    I feel like I m slaving myself for nothing. I never give 100 percent to my job. I m not a team worker by any means.
    Honest, I keep the work schedule at must for two weeks, then I get bored. I feel like I m shackled down by a bunch of people who call themselves managers.
    I don’t like to be told what to do.
    I m a free-spirit. I tell it like it is , and I don’t care who is at the receiving end. Higher up or lowley I
    Let them have it.

  4. jorge jacobo Says:

    In my situation, I wish I was getting paid for reading.

    I don’t think that happens though. They pay you when you give or produce something. I don’t consider myself a workaholic. I am trying to find something I enjoy doing and at the same time make money. From there I might become an engaged workaholic. (By the way, that’s a new term for me).

    You guy’s have good stuff it all over the place! Thanks for sharing!

  5. Echo Says:

    I wish I can be an engaged workaholic in the future!

  6. Dan Says:

    Unfortunately many times the workplace is a source of bad thoughts, negative feelings, and conflict.
    I have been working since 1987 and I have witnessed and expirienced all described on Lucy’s blog.
    I like working. I consider myself to be a good relilable worker.
    And when I am home I also enjoy cleaning and dusting.
    I rarely find myself bored. In that sense i feel lucky.
    I guess that all comes down at how we see things.
    There is not such a thing as the perfect job.
    Look at me, In 25 years I only changed two places. Even if I was not really satisfied I kept the job.
    It gave me a decent wage, paid the bills and bought a house.

    Thanks.

  7. Betty Says:

    Thank you very much indeed, Lucy, your article has made my day.

    I know I am workaholic, but I never wanted to admit I am workaholic because “holic” seems to be a bad thing like alcoholic, shopaholic, etc.

    I now learn this new term “engaged workaholic” from you, I am glad and believe that I belong to this group of people.

    I love this new term – “Engaged Workaholic”, a very nice name.

    In everything I do, I enjoy them so much that I can continue to work non-stop, like a superwoman.

    I did not know why I could work like that. I could not understand it until now.

    My main duty now is to look after my children. I have the same attitude towards this duty, and I love doing everything I can do for my family.

    Besides housework, I maintain some healthy hobbies, for instance, learning English.

    While listening to the English Cafe yesterday, when Jeff said
    ““Folks” can also refer to your parents.
    “My folks are living in Minnesota,” or “My folks are going on vacation next week.”
    “Folks” is your father and your mother.”

    I thought, I never knew “folks” is my father and my mother. I probably know only about 10% of English.

    Because I am “learning something new” from this website every day, I become an Engaged Learner.

    Lucy, I hope you don’t mind me saying you are definitely an Engaged Workaholic.

    But please don’t stop being an Engaged Workaholic. It is healthy for you and profoundly beneficial to us.

    Thanks again.

    Best Regards

    Betty :)

  8. Ana Says:

    I don’t wish to be engaged workaholic but now i am going to.

  9. lyes Says:

    i feel and i belive that i’am with the seconde kind which is “”engaged workaholics”"