Career ladder or hamster wheel: That's how fast you become addicted to work


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Workaholism is not a harmless workaholic, but a serious addiction with sometimes serious consequences. The boundaries between hamster wheel and career ladder are fluid. What can we do so that it does not get that far?

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Simone Janson Simone JansonSimone Janson is publisherGerman Top20 blogger and Consultant for HR communication.

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Workaholic or workaholic? The picture in the media

The fact that the topic is always present in the media shows how important it is in our society. It is usually about workaholism and the topic is often translated in the media as “work anger”.

Work addiction would probably be more correct, because it is more likely when people can only talk about their job, want to be available to their boss day and night and cannot switch off even on vacation or at night - typical symptoms. By the way, Wikipedia also has “work addiction” as a translation for workaholism.

Workaholism can be deadly

How serious this disease can be is shown by two spectacular deaths in recent times: The head of finance of the Swiss insurance group Zurich, Pierre Wauthier, committed suicide because apparently the job pressure became too great for him. And in London, a young German banker apparently died from overwork because of too many 24 hours shifts. But despite the dangers, workaholism is not uncommon.

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The main reason why, despite the obvious disadvantages, many people cling to their stressful work schedule is their social standing. Perfectionism one of the main triggers and drivers of workaholism.

Aspiration, fighting spirit, sense of order: Workaholism has many seemingly positive sides

Also features such as aspiration, ambition, fighting spirit, sense of order or organizational ability are considered excellent qualities to make a career; they are consistently well documented in modern day-to-day work. In addition, they are good for your own ego, which in turn enhances your addiction to workaholism.

And while addictions such as hard drugs or uncontrolled alcohol consumption are ostracized socially, workaholism, so-called workaholism, is considered to be of a high social standing, is considered normal and is often even used by the Company wanted. Therefore, it is so hard to admit that the corresponding patterns of behavior are harmful and to change them.

Stress vs. Stress Flow: That's the difference

So that's clear: we're not talking about healthy productivity here; from the flow, if we are briefly enthralled by the enthusiasm. We are talking here of a destructive aspiration that is usually nourished by the fear of not doing the right thing. What's the difference and what's going on in our brain and our hormone balance, I've been up on Best of HR – Berufebilder.de® about Effect of flow, stress and endorphins written. With negative stress, personal insecurity is all too often compensated for by hectic productivity.

Nevertheless, work-addicted people give the impression of being particularly productive and thus appear as the ideal performers. After all, in our society, whoever gives 110 percent, must ultimately be successful - right?

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Every hamster wheel looks like a career ladder from the inside

But "every hamster bike looks like a career ladder from the inside" - I think it's a very appropriate sentence. And the demons that drive us to continue to perform are deep within us - but they are still favored by the above-mentioned social circumstances.

How that applies, I realized, when I discovered some time ago a contribution by the American blogger Allison Vesterfelt. She had started a brave self-experiment on 2010: she gave up her job as a teacher to become a blogger, sold her possession and moved across the United States - from Portland to Oregon to Minneapolis.

When the dream job becomes a nightmare

You could say Allison set herself free to indulge in her passion for travel and writing. And yet her post “Blogging Is Stealing My Creative Energy” shows that the inner drivers are still there - and that she feels burned out today.

“… Something didn't change. I just kept following all the rules. (I think I'm addicted to them.) When it comes to blogging I've been following all the rules for awhile now. And I'm assuming that's part of the problem. The more I follow the rules, the less of me I have to put toward what I'm doing. The more focused I am on becoming a “blogger”, the less focused I am on becoming Ally. ”

So the best job is stressful

In her blog post, Allison Vesterfelt analyzed why the dream job turned into a nightmare. Every job has advantages and disadvantages. For example, if you want to make a living from professional blogging, you unfortunately have to deal with key figures and statistics, ensure access to your site, and and and. I know this from my own experience and can therefore well understand Allison's description:

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“It used to keep me up at night, and get me out of bed in the morning. I used to feel invigorated by it, obsessed with leaning the ropes, challenging myself to produce better content, faster, to post it at the right days of the week and tweet about it at the right times of the day. I would check my stats compulsively, excited each time I saw the blue line go above the green line, and thrilled each time a new comment came, someone else who wanted to join the conversation. I would rush to my computer, several times a day to read, listen, and respond. ”

Inner impeller: We are responsible for it

At the same time, this very personal statement shows that we are responsible for how strongly we drive ourselves. Because nobody forces us to constantly check statistics and run the computer around the clock. We do it all by ourselves. And so we can change the situation ourselves - and more often take a break, treat ourselves and do something good.

It sounds simple and yet the simple fact that we are good to ourselves leads to less insecurity and more relaxation. Just try it. Good luck breaking out of the hamster wheel!


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