For some of you the title of this post may feel like a trick question because “work-aholism” and “passion around one’s work” may look the same on the outside.

Even the dictionary isn’t helpful: Definition of workaholic = a compulsive worker. Which begs the question:  What is compulsive?  And since “compulsion” is relative to the observer, without any clear indication of the internal motivation behind the compulsion, how does a person know if someone is motivated by passion around their work…or something more destructive?

I believe the answer to that question must be based on two things:  1) an honest analysis of one’s internal motivation, and 2) a broader look at how a person manages their whole life.  Those answers are the key to discovering whether a person has work-aholic tendencies or is simply passionate about their work.

Let’s take a few minutes and look at both areas in more detail:

1) Internal Motivation

The internal motivation of a Work-Aholic:

Forbes Magazine‘s article “7 Signs You May Be a Work-Aholic” describes a work-aholic as follows:

  • You work in order to reduce feelings of guilt, anxiety, helplessness and/or depression
  • You become stressed if you are prohibited from working
  • You de-prioritize hobbies, leisure activities and/or exercise because of your work
  • You work so much that it has negatively influenced your health

Work-Aholics Anonymous describes the following internal characteristics:

  • The need to get just a few more tasks done before feeling good about yourself and allow yourself to relax
  • Self-esteem is based on how others judge your performance and receiving their praise
  • Often judging ourselves by our accomplishments
  • Feeling resentment about having to complete tasks instead of relaxing or playing
  • Belief that people will like us more if we can do more and do it faster

In contrast, here are the internal motivators of a Passionate Worker:

Inspiration seems to be an internal motivator of a Passionate Worker according to a CBS News article “Workaholism: A Sign of Passion — or Dysfunction?”  The article makes a clear distinction between work-aholism and passion based on inspiration saying it’s natural to work nights and weekends as inspiration hits outside normal business hours, but the drive to work continuously is simply dysfunctional.

In Fortune Magazine‘s article “Are You a Workaholic, or Do You Just Love Your Job?” the author cites four motives for voluntary long hours and hard work including work being it’s own reward because it’s fun or intrinsically satisfying – and drives that point home with this quote “A major distinction must be made between the enthusiast and the addict in the form of healthy and unhealthy passion at work: Enthusiasts work because they want to; addicts because they feel they have to.” (see article link at bottom of page).

2) Broad View of how Life is Managed:

How a Work-aholic Manages Their Life:

According to Huffington Post article “Why Being A Workaholic Is Awful For You AND Everyone Around You,” there are significant differences between being engaged at work and being addicted to it including not taking vacations, not giving your brain a break, always eating at your desk, constantly checking email, relationship struggles, etc.

How a Passionate Worker Manages Their Life:

In an article titled “The Difference Between Work-life Integration and Workaholism,” Fortune Magazine notes work-life integration is when people are at their very best and driven by the same fundamental values and passions personally and professionally – bringing their talents, strengths and personality to both arenas, making their work life and home life parts of a seamless whole.

Final Thoughts:

So let’s go back to my original question:  Are you a Work-Aholic or a Passionate Worker?

If you have suddenly realized you may be a Work-Aholic rather than just passionate about your work, please trust I only have grace and mercy for you – no judgement here!  The most important thing is that you recognize it now – which means you can actually begin doing something about it.

If you are serious about wanting to SHIFT from being a work-aholic to becoming a healthier version of who you want to be, click this link to set up a Coffee and Conversation meeting with me today. The meeting is simply a conversation – not a “sales pitch” – to consider coaching as a potential resource which can make a significant difference in your life.  You can take me up on my program, or not, at the end of the meeting. Your call.  I promise!

About Kris (Cavanaugh) Castro

Kris (Cavanaugh) Castro is the owner of Shift Inc, and she is committed to your growth and ambitions!  Her  background includes over 20 years of experience training, mentoring, and coaching individuals and teams. As a certified ICF coach and expert strategist, Kris has an amazing ability to pull her clients through difficult challenges to remain on top of their game, enhance their professional performance, develop effective leadership skills, and produce more consistent results.  To learn more about individual, leadership or corporate coaching programs, or to purchase one of her self-improvement products, go to

Article Links:

7 Signs You May Be a Work-Aholic

The Problem:  Characteristics of Workaholics

Workaholism: A Sign of Passion — or Dysfunction?

“Are you a workaholic, or do you just love your job?”

The difference between work-life integration and workaholism

Why Being A Workaholic Is Awful For You AND Everyone Around You