Washington, D.C.: The moods of workaholics are often more negative than those of others, even when they are engrossed in their most passionate pursuit: their work. A study published in the Journal of Occupational Health Psychology, led by Professor Cristian Balducci from the Department for Life Quality Studies at the University of Bologna (Rimini Campus), in collaboration with Dr Luca Menghini from the University of Trento and Prof Paola Spagnoli from the University of Campania 'Luigi Vanvitelli', sheds light on this phenomenon.
Professor Balducci explains, "The observed negative mood in workaholics may indicate elevated daily stress levels, which could contribute to a higher risk of developing burnout and cardiovascular problems for these individuals. Additionally, given that workaholics often hold positions of responsibility, their negative mood could potentially influence that of colleagues and co-workers, posing a risk that organizations should seriously consider and intervene to discourage behaviors contributing to workaholism."
Work addiction, a well-known phenomenon, involves individuals working excessively and compulsively, negatively impacting their health, psychological well-being, and relationships with family and friends. Numerous studies indicate that workaholics commonly experience a sense of unwellness, accompanied by negative emotions such as hostility, anxiety, and guilt when unable to work as extensively as desired. However, there are conflicting assumptions about their feelings while at work.
To address this, the study involved 139 full-time workers, primarily engaged in back-office activities. A psychological test assessed participants' work dependency levels. The scholars then analyzed the workers' mood and perception of workload using the "experience sampling method." An app installed on participants' phones allowed them to send short questionnaires approximately every 90 minutes from 9 am to 6 pm over three working days (Monday, Wednesday, and Friday).
Negative mood of workaholics
Prof Balducci notes, "The collected data show that the most workaholic workers have, on average, a worse mood than others." The results challenge the notion that workaholics derive more pleasure from their work, indicating that, like other forms of addiction, initial euphoria gives way to a negative emotional state persisting even during work.
The study also reveals that workaholics, on average, consistently maintain a more negative mood throughout the day, with no significant variations tied to the passage of time or workload fluctuations. This emotional flattening, a recognized phenomenon in other types of addiction, suggests a diminished reactivity to external stimuli, possibly stemming from the workaholic's inability to moderate work investment.
Women and workaholism
The study highlights gender differences, with the relationship between work addiction and bad mood being more pronounced in women. This indicates a greater vulnerability of women to workaholism, possibly due to increased role conflict between internal tendencies to over-invest in work and external pressures from deeply rooted gender expectations.
Dangers and countermeasures
The study underscores the dangers of workaholism, which can adversely impact relationships, physical health, and psychological well-being. "Overwork illnesses" could escalate to the point of death from overwork. Professor Balducci emphasizes the need for organizations to send clear signals discouraging a climate where working outside regular hours is considered the norm. Instead, fostering an environment that discourages excessive work investment and promotes disconnection policies, specific training activities, and counseling interventions is crucial.
The study, titled "Uncovering the Main and Interacting Impact of Workaholism on Momentary Hedonic Tone at Work: An Experience Sampling Approach," was published in the Journal of Occupational Health Psychology.