Work engagement is linked to harmonious passion while workaholism is linked to obsessive passion.


If you won the lottery tomorrow how would your life change? I’ve often asked myself the question in the course of my career (as a form of a happiness check). There were very few times that I thought I would quit my job; maybe use the money to buy the company I was with or infuse one with capital but rarely did I think I would stop working. Does this make me a workaholic (a person who is addicted to work) or just passionate about what I was/am doing? I’ve asked others that I’ve worked alongside of and with and gotten a variety of answers which I generally took as a clue as to how engaged they in their work.

Passion vs Compulsion

In a recent article written by Marjan J. Gorgievski and Arnold B. Baker - Work Engagement Versus Workaholism - the authors describe two forms of passion: “harmonious passion” and “obsessive passion.” Work engagement is linked to harmonious passion whileworkaholismis linked to obsessive passion. Harmonious passion is characterized by work engagement, hard work, feeling of significance, enthusiasm, inspiration, pride, enjoying the challenge, the belief that one has the ability to accomplish the job and involvement (happily) in the work. According to the article workaholics or the obsessive passion person are generally hard workers that do work-related activities the majority of the time. For the workaholic, disengaging from work is very difficult. They spend time thinking about work even when not working and most importantly, they have a compulsion for work.

According to their report, the major difference between workaholism and work engagement is that the workaholic lacks receiving enjoyment (fun) from their work like the engaged worker and engaged worker does not exhibit the compulsive drive exhibited by workaholics.

Fear of failure or the Thrill of success

I think one way to determine if you are a workaholic or an engaged worker is to recognize your motivation: Are you afraid of failing, of disappointing others? Is self-righteousness a by-product of you working hard, or is it resentment that you work more hours than others? Is your self-worth tied up completely in who you are and what you do at work? If you answered yes to any of these questions, then I think you could be considered a workaholic.

On the other hand, you may just love the thrill of success, striving for the victory including something as mundane as overcoming the “to do” list or possibly taking complete enjoyment in what you do…maybe we’re just passionate about what we do?

Outside Work

The ability to participate in activities outside of work can also be an indicator of workaholism or engagement. This doesn’t mean that you can’t discuss what you did today at dinner, nor check your email on your Blackberry after hours. Remember, many of us have hobbies that can garner our attention during our work day. So, work if you love it. If it’s a hobby that has turned in to a career, it could be a part of who we are. But if you can never take a break to connect with those closest and important to you, then may have an issue. One thing I love about being with my grandchildren is that there is absolutely no room for anything but them, otherwise I might find my plumbing clogged or snakes in the house!

It’s hard to justify the many hours that some of us put into our jobs. I think it’s always good to check every once in a while as to why we work so hard and the motivation for that work. On the other hand, isn’t that o.k., just to love what you do?