20 Differences between a workaholic and a hard worker

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Workaholic vs Hard worker (Workaholism vs Working hard)

Being a “workaholic” is a glorified status symbol today for many. The darnest thing in many cultures is the respect it gets, despite being a grave work-obsession.

Because, sadly, the society does not see any difference between a hard worker and a workaholic and use these terms synonymously. In most cases, we associate words like passionate, dedicated, to workaholics, even if it is insidious and destructive.

Firstly, recognizing the difference between workaholism and working hard, can aid in understanding if workaholism is productive for the company and to yourself.

The table below shows how these two terms are dissimilar, supported by research published in PLOS journal.

The difference

workaholic vs hard worker

The underlying characteristics in both phenomena:

Workaholic: Low self-esteem, stress, anxiety, perfectionism, poor work environment

Hard-worker: Passion, internal drive, composed, calculated, control on time management

workaholic vs hard worker

“The procrastinator dreads beginning, the workaholic, ending” – James Richardson

Are workaholics born or made?

A plethora of external and internal factors jointly impact the state of this addiction.

Often, workers don’t make a deliberate choice to get addicted to work. It happens when you become a slave to your situation, rather than facing the challenges and rising above. It is the inability to be assertive and being victim of crooked peers, lazy bosses, and lack of self-control. Based on the external and internal factors, we can classify them as follows:

workaholic vs hard worker

Involuntary Workaholics: When the inefficiencies at workplace force you to work longer it is involuntary workaholism. Insufficient training and staffing, stringent or unrealistic deadlines, manager’s expectations, poor planning, unexpected events etc. are some examples for incompetent work environment.

Voluntary Workaholics: Seeking pleasure from work (self-fulfillment), low self-esteem, being unhappy in life, seeking social validation, perfectionism, motivated by highest achievement, self-efficacy these are some of the reasons for choosing work over life.

This gradually becomes an addiction. Some even find their existential meaning in working to death.

You define your work. Your work does not define you!

What can you do differently?

workaholic vs hard worker

  1. Learn to say “no” to the work you cannot handle. “No” does not mean incapability. It means time is limited and there is only so much a person can accomplish in a given time period.
  2. Be stringent with the amount of time you spend on work.
  3. Set flexible deadlines for yourself. Plan ahead!
  4. Value and care for important things and people in your life
  5. Understand that workaholism is not a productive habit. It is an addiction.
  6. Plan your work efficiently.
  7. Give up perfectionism, a job well done in time is better than delayed “perfection”. Aim for progress, not perfection.
  8. Delegate work when you can. Learn to trust, tutor, and teamwork.

In conclusion,

Overall, workaholism renders negative outcomes on all aspects of life, including, family, relationships, individual development, physical and emotional health. Workaholics suffer from ulcer, indigestion, anxiety, sleep deprivation, mental illness, and fatigue.

Being a workaholic doesn’t ensure productivity. It is a constant urge to work, an intense addiction, that makes it difficult for the workaholic to engage in any other activities outside of work. When the addiction becomes deterrent to health, it is a warning sign to stop the way you operate.

Workaholism saps the life out of you, especially when you realize all the things you’ve lost for something (job satisfaction) you’re not recognized for.

Despite many people taking pride in calling themselves a workaholic, times are changing. On the flip side, some organizations are also working to bring momentum and awareness in ending the new age addiction, called workaholism. And others continue to embrace this as their organizational culture, calling it “That’s the nature of the job”.

What are your views on this?

It’s not over yet, am sure you’re curious to know the broader picture on which is the Most Workaholic country in the world!

Some key statistics to enlighten our view on the prevalence of “workaholic culture” are put together in the following graphics.

This is mainly captured on the basis of entitled vacation vs used vacation (Vacation deprivation) and hours worked (see the graph too).

Source: Expedia

Table Source

According to OECD, the countries with highest and lowest average hours worked per year.


In short,

workaholic vs hard worker

Now that you know the difference, enlighten your peers, subordinates and drive a sustained work culture in your companies too. Stop rewarding “chained to their desk” workers, appreciate and encourage efficient ways of working!

Rajeshwari Ogirala

Rajeshwari is a writer, Biz Development Manager. Passionate about people and personal development. Believes in sharing her knowledge and instilling positive work culture in people.

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