Does Workaholism Lead to Improved Job Performance?

Everyone knows someone who could be described as a “workaholic” – someone who only ever thinks about work, stays late and goes in early, and is always connected to work email and group chats, even during time off. In fact, with the development of new technologies and the blurring of work-life boundaries, workaholism has become the norm in many organizations. The prevailing thought motivating workaholics is that the harder they work, the better their performance will be. However, new research is challenging that notion.


The researchers (Xu et al., 2023) conducted two time-lagged studies to determine if workaholism causes performance, or performance causes workaholism. Using survey data from 599 participants over several months, the researchers found that those who work compulsively also work excessively, and that performance was the precursor, not the outcome, to workaholism. In other words, workaholism did not promote or boost employee performance, but rather was the result of the employee’s performance ratings.


Workaholism, while popular, can be detrimental to the well-being of employees. Still, workaholics are made, not born. Therefore, there are several steps that organizations can take to better protect their employees:

  • Stop encouraging workaholic behaviors. Workaholism is associated with poorer mental, physical, and social health for employees.
  • Leaders should partner with employees to structure the work to prevent the need for workaholism. This can include improved planning, teaching time management skills, managing workloads, or simply helping employees when they become overburdened.
  • Implement wellness programs to help employees establish better work-life balance and effective coping strategies. Exercise, social support, and reframing thinking can all help employees break workaholic patterns and maintain healthier work-life balance. Organizations should put programs and resources in place to help employees learn and engage in these healthier coping strategies.


Xu, X., Peng, Y., Ma, J., & Jalil, D. (2023). Does working hard really pay off? Testing the temporal ordering between workaholism and job performance. Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology, 96, 503-523.

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