The Dark Side of Relentless Work: The Negative Moods of Workaholics and Their Ripple Effect in the Workplace

Work addiction, a well-known phenomenon, involves people working excessively and compulsively, which negatively affects their health, psychological well-being, and relationships with family and friends. Numerous studies indicate that workaholics often experience a feeling of discomfort, accompanied by negative emotions such as hostility, anxiety and guilt when they cannot work as much as they want. However, there are conflicting assumptions about your feelings at work.

To address this, the study involved 139 full-time workers, primarily engaged in administrative activities. A psychological test evaluated the participants’ levels of work dependence. The academics then analyzed workers’ mood and perception of workload using the “experience sampling method.” An app installed on participants’ phones allowed them to submit short questionnaires approximately every 90 minutes, from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. for three business days (Monday, Wednesday, and Friday).

Professor Balducci notes: “The data collected shows that the most workaholic workers have, on average, worse mood than others.” The results challenge the notion that workaholics derive more pleasure from their work, indicating that, like other forms of addiction, the initial euphoria gives way to a negative emotional state that persists even during work.

The study also reveals that workaholics, on average, consistently maintain a more negative mood throughout the day, without significant variations related to the passage of time or fluctuations in workload. This emotional flattening, a phenomenon recognized in other types of addiction, suggests diminished reactivity to external stimuli, possibly arising from the workaholic’s inability to moderate work investment.

The study highlights gender differences, with the relationship between workaholism and bad mood being more pronounced in women. This indicates women’s greater vulnerability to workaholism, possibly due to greater role conflict between internal tendencies to overinvest in work and external pressures from deeply ingrained gender expectations.

The study highlights the dangers of workaholism, which can negatively affect relationships, physical health and psychological well-being. “Diseases of overwork” could escalate to the point of causing death from overwork. Professor Balducci highlights the need for organizations to send clear signals that discourage a climate in which working outside of normal hours is considered the norm. Instead, it is crucial to foster an environment that discourages excessive work investment and promotes disengagement policies, targeted training activities, and counseling interventions.

The study, titled “Uncovering the primary and interactive impact of workaholism on momentary hedonic tone at work: An experience sampling approach,” was published in the Journal of Occupational Health Psychology.

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