Crazy Work Ethics? Are you a Workaholic?


What’s a crazy work ethic? Workaholic?  They come in all varieties.   Most of us would imagine the driven entrepreneur who works um-teen hours a day, every day.  But that stereotype is not descriptive.  When it comes to “over-working”  the craziness usually involves an inordinate amount of time spent at work.

This unbalanced addiction to working comes from various compulsions.  Some of us have a paranoid fear of failure, some of us are driven to succeed as a measure of our own self worth,  some of us just love what we do and don’t consider “crazy work ethic” to be anything other than natural.  But then, what is “crazy” when it comes to work ethics?   Is it working an average of 50 hours a week, or 100?  Some of us work 100 hour weeks in sprints, due to crazy demanding clients, government imposed deadlines, or the natural compression that always seems to come before holidays or vacation. (anyone else noticed that? )

When I was starting my practice as a CPA, it was not unusual for me to work until midnight six days a week during the tax season. Close to the deadlines, I used to throw “tax parties” and the staff and I would work until 1 or 2 am getting things done.  And, yes, there were a few times I sent the staff home and did all nighters. Was this crazy? Was I a confirmed workaholic?  Maybe, but the result of all this was I built a very successful business.

In the laid-back, casual-is-expected environment, employees want a “healthy”  work-life balance.  They think that’s normal.

Actually, it isn’t.  Looking back to history, it was only in the 1920’s that a 40 hour work week started to be adopted.  But today, in many avocations, a 40 hour work week is just about impossible. Ask any farmer,   doctor or entrepreneur.  The facts are that if you are working in Corporate America, you are expected to produce, and there’s often no way to do that without burning some midnight oil.  So the idea that a 40 hour work week is “normal” may be a Norman Rockwell myth.

For an entrepreneur, there’s the issue of when working too much becomes counterproductive.  When do you cross the line from driven-to-success to confirmed workaholic?  After so many hours ( and this depends upon the individual, and the work involved) we all know that just throwing hours at a task can actually hurt the outcome.   The problem is recognizing this, and knowing where one is on the efficiency vs effort curve.  That takes a clear head, some careful self-monitoring, and realistic expectations.   As is so often said of these kinds of situations, ” when up to your neck  with alligators, it’s easy to forget that the objective was to drain the swamp.”

So in many cases,  “crazy work ethics” may actually be a defensive reaction which comes from an erroneous evaluation of the demands of the task, insufficient resources, or an unrealistic evaluation of your capacity, efficiency or comprehension of the work at hand.  In other words, the work ethic isn’t the issue,  the problem is in defining work scope, analyzing what needs to be done, and properly managing resources.

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