Workaholics Not Always the Best Employees, Can Be a Drain on Productivity, Study Says

Stay informed and ready to meet both everyday challenges and long-term planning and policy-making goals, with focused news, practical information, and strategic insights on all HR-related developments.


By Genevieve Douglas

Feb. 4 — When a job candidate proudly professes that he or she is a “workaholic,” employers may want to look at the next applicant. While such a worker tends to be dedicated and can get things done, he or she also could just as easily burn out quickly, a study released Jan. 30 by PsychTests reveals.

According to PsychTests, a provider of online psychological assessments, there are some “strengths” that sound like they are an asset, but in reality, should raise a red flag when brought up in a job interview. These include “I’m a perfectionist” and “I can multi-task,” Ilona Jerabek, president of PsychTests, told Bloomberg BNA Feb. 4.

“This kind of extreme, ‘Type A' personality has a shelf life as an employee, as [such an employee] cannot keep up this kind of schedule and work dedication for a sustained period of time,” she warned.

According to data from 1,385 people who took the online “Type A Personality Test” from PsychTests, 86 percent of those identified as workaholics said they push themselves to accomplish their goals, 65 percent said they take work home with them and 63 percent claimed they hate the idea of being considered an average performer.

Looking at these statistics, Jerabek said, some employers might think: “So what’s the problem? This is exactly the kind of person I want working for my company.” But the PsychTests study also showed the downside of such workers, finding:

• 73 percent have trouble unwinding at the end of the day;

• 73 percent get angry at themselves when they don’t finish everything they wanted to do;

• 60 percent tend to be overly competitive and impatient with co-workers;

• 49 percent have trouble falling asleep; and

• 46 percent find that their life is too stressful.


Jerabek said that the stress and constant pressure to perform well in absolutely everything results in a build-up of fatigue, resentment and frustration. Workaholics’ adrenaline-fueled creativity runs dry, she said, since they are just too sleep-deprived. At some point, she added, workaholics' minds and bodies will say “that’s enough,” and they will end up on sick leave from a massive burnout, or other stress-related health problems.

Promoting a Work-Life Balance 

Jerabek conceded that it is not easy to change the workaholic's attitude, but she said that managers can help such a worker gain some perspective on the importance of work-life balance.

First, employers must be on the lookout for symptoms of burnout or extreme chronic stress, Jerabek said. When addressing these symptoms with the employee, she said, it's important to validate his or her dedication to the company. Managers should emphasize that the employee should slow down to avoid any detrimental effects, she added.

“You need to give them permission to take it easy, and explicitly tell them to take some time off,” Jerabek recommended. Even though this may sound counterproductive to an employer, it is in both parties’ best interests, she said.

Jerabek advised employers to actively encourage employees to have a balance between recreation and work; to exercise, even if it's just a brief walk at lunch; and to find pursuits outside of the workplace. This should be done in combination with examining their workload, she said, and making sure managers are not exacerbating the problem.

To contact the reporter on this story: Genevieve Douglas in Washington at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Simon Nadel at