Working with a workaholic partner can be challenging. YYou know how contagious secondhand stress is: because they’re working overtime, you feel compelled to do the same. Their immediacy and ultra-responsiveness create many tasks and answers for you to deal with. And their behavior can be detrimental to your well-being. In this piece, the author outlines four steps you can take to reduce the negative effects of their behavior on yourself and your team: 1) Depersonalize their actions. 2) Avoid glorifying the character. 3) Resist peer pressure. 4) Create boundaries.
Your partner is the first to enter and the last to leave. They volunteer to do every extra task that comes your team’s way and they respond to emails within minutes. They work all the time, whether from the office or from home. In short? You are dealing with a workaholic.
While reporting to a workaholic boss is difficult, having a hard-driving peer who seems married to work can be equally frustrating. If you have a workaholic partner, you know how contagious secondhand stress is: because they work overtime, you feel compelled to do the same. Their immediacy and ultra-responsiveness create many tasks and answers for you to deal with. Workaholic behavior is not only annoying – it can be harmful and affect your well-being at worst, not only increasing your chances of combustionbut also reduce your creativity, productivity, and job satisfaction.
As layoffs and austerity measures hit companies around the world, it’s common for team members to jockey to prove their worth and place on the team. But there is a difference between working hard and being emotionally dependent on your work. Motivation separates an engaged coworker from one who is obsessed. Workaholics feel an internal compulsion to give the business their all and not “kill.” Instead, they think about professional things without time, and at the expense of their personal lives and relationships.
Dealing with a workaholic colleague can be challenging, but there are steps you can take to reduce the negative effects of their behavior on yourself and your team.
Depersonalize their actions.
Although it’s tempting to think that your coworker is working too hard in an attempt to outdo you, this is a classic example of a cognitive bias known as basic identification error. In social psychology, it refers to the tendency that people have to attribute the actions of another person to their character or personality, while attributing our own behavior to external or situational factors beyond our control.
In other words, your coworker probably isn’t working too hard to intimidate or one-up you. You bias your thinking by considering other reasons for their behavior. For example, maybe your co-worker is going through something personal and puts themselves at work as an escape. Or maybe they are reacting to the past workplace trauma.
Avoid glorifying the character.
Avoid giving praise when the result is clearly due to overwork. If you know your partner stayed up all night doing a presentation, for example, praising their sacrifice can be counterproductive. Likewise, the next time your co-worker complains about how they’re completely stuffed, don’t validate them by saying, “Wow, you went the extra mile,” reinforcing only on their workhouse mentality.
Pay attention to your own behavior to make sure it doesn’t influence your partner’s work methods. It may be easy for you to clear your inbox on Saturday afternoon, but consider scheduling your messages to go out on Monday, so you don’t enter the weekend in email ping-pong. Continue to invest in your own efforts to create balance for yourself. Positive role modeling can give your partner permission to take care of themselves as well.
Resist peer pressure.
Guilt makes you prone to falling into the same patterns as your partner. You can start comparing your capacity and output to theirs and think, “Am I really working hard?” Before you start overextending yourself in an effort to “catch up,” think about your mindset and be aware of extremist thinking. You are not lazy or irresponsible if you don’t attend the 8 pm call and your partner, for example. Taking time for self-care isn’t an indulgence, it’s a necessity for your performance.
If your passive-aggressive partner snipe, “It should be nice not to do XYZ,” you might say, “Yeah, it is. I see a lot of people who think they have to work around the clock.” , but I don’t do that, and it benefits me in ABC ways. A lot of pressure goes away if you don’t buy into the idea that hurry is better.”
Workaholics tend to have some boundaries. They can bend over backwards to accommodate last minute changes and struggle to say no of requests. You need to play defense by managing expectations on response times and your availability. Let’s say your partner asks you to turn around a short project in less than 24 hours. You can push and explain, “That’s not possible. If you have a task like this in the future, I need at least three days’ notice to work it into my schedule. You can also advocate for better systems and process that eliminates the need for extra effort.
If you start setting limits, your partner may resent or resist at first. That’s normal and it means your efforts are working. Stand your ground, stay the course, and enforce the consequences if you have to.
Finally, remember to adjust your view of productivity. While it may be tempting to measure your daily success based on the number of hours you work, the quality of work you deliver is what matters most. Being good at your job doesn’t mean working harder – it means getting results.