Functioning workaholics – the route to rehab

Functioning workaholics, are you one?


Functioning workaholics can have the same effect on family, friends and the workplace as alcoholics. Just like alcoholics, workaholics are always looking for their next fix. Their next email, their next call, their next transaction. 

They hide their addiction behind workload excuses, boss’s expectations, client requirements, income requirements and more. They say to themselves, “the next email response, will be my last of the day”, “the next call will be my last for the day”.  And, it never is.

Work is the first thing they think of (often grabbing their phones as their eyes open) and the last thing they think of (often working late into the evening on their phone, laptop, tablet etc.).

The workaholic (just as a functioning alcoholic) may miss family events, or when in attendance have their phone constantly glued to their hand, constantly topping up their use of the phone… just one more.  Sitting at the dinner table, phone in hand, head down.  Oblivious to everything going around them, their children growing, their partner’s distance, their parents’ lives, their friends’ relationships and more… just one more and I will be finished for the evening.

The workaholic at work appears very busy; always late for meetings as they had to take the last call, working on their phones during meetings, cancelling meetings and in particular the 1:1’s with their team.

The workaholic can get vast amounts of work carried out, never stopping to evaluate their quality of their work, or the impact it makes. Working hard on lots and rarely mastering any.

The workaholic over time loses focus on the key areas; there is physical changes in appearance and behaviour.

The workaholic may even wear their ‘reputation’ as a badge of honour.

The workaholic will burn-out.  Without doubt taking casualties with them.

Managers may initially encourage functioning workaholic mindsets within their team, they will however tire of this quickly; tire of the excuses of missed deadlines, missed opportunities, dysfunctional team, mediocre work, others asking about “is x ok?” and of course making excuses to others in support of the team member.

The repercussions to the business of having a culture or department that encourages this behaviour is detrimental to all involved, not least the company’s reputation and ultimately the bottom line.

Fear that the workload will reduce is often a factor in not managing the situation of a functioning workaholic.   Consideration: if a workaholic is working 70+ hours a week delivering OK results, imagine what the individual could deliver if they had focus and balance.



3 Quick Steps to Success


1. Stop and Breathe

You know if you are a workaholic, or, a member of your team is.
Own this.  Stop!! Breathe!!

Go back to basics, grab a pen and paper, and now write down everything, absolutely everything, that you are working on or are going to work on.

It’s time to gain some perspective on the workload.


2. Important and Urgent

Now you have a list of tasks that you are working on and tasks that you are planning on working, consider the importance and urgency of each task.


Consider the importance of a task by asking yourself the question, “if I stop doing this/ was not to carry this out, would my role no longer exist?” This is the important part, your role as a manager and a leader is the focus here. More often than not, managers and leaders are carrying out tasks and roles that have low yield for themselves and the business. In other words, you are a highly paid junior member of the team.

If the answer is yes, then carry on?

If the answer is no, now ask, “what value will this task bring to the business”, if some value, delegate.  If zero value, cancel.


If you answered, yes, it is important to my role, consider the urgency of the task by asking yourself the question, “does this have to be done now?”  If yes, place this on your ‘Daily Drivers’ list.  If not, calendar it for a later date.

3. Daily Drivers

Each day consider what will be a high yield task. This is high yield in terms of return on investment for the business and return on investment for yourself. Your return on investments should weigh heavily towards your reputation and brand.

Split into 3 ratings:

  1. Very High ROI
  2. High ROI
  3. No ROI (why are you even considering this?)

Plan to carry out the tasks in order of the 1’s first followed by the 2’s.


4. Contact me on how to improve your management and leadership.