Addictions Therapist and Founder of Love With Boundaries, Candace Plattor, explains how you can overcome the inner compulsion of always working, as well as feeling guilty when you’re not working, in 3 simple strategies.
In our last two articles about helping a loved one who is a workaholic, we explored what workaholism can look like as well as the pitfalls of staying entrenched in this addictive behaviour. If you haven’t read them, you can find them here.
In this third and final article of this series, I’ll show you a few strategies you can try to shift both your thinking and your behaviour if you are struggling with this issue – or if you know someone who is.
Let’s start with a reminder that workaholism can only exist when we make the decision to allow others to give us more than our share of the work, or when we choose to work harder than those around us. There could be many underlying reasons for why we do that – and it’s good to seek out some help when we need it to figure that out. Self-awareness is always the first step towards change, so please don’t hesitate to reach out for help when you need it.
Workaholism is a form of codependency, which occurs when we put others’ needs ahead of our own on a fairly consistent basis. Many people who struggle with workaholism often communicate with those around them in passive-aggressive ways, because they feel resentful and angry inside but often don’t tell anyone they feel that way – until they explode. This type of coping can be very confusing to people around them and can lead to negative consequences such as alienating people or even getting fired.
Another coping behaviour can be labelled as passive, where those feelings remain inside, never to be expressed verbally. Yet another way to cope is to become aggressive – lashing out, making threats, becoming violent and possibly even ending up in jail.
But the healthiest way to respond to life is to be assertive: We speak our truth from a self-respectful and self-responsible place, owning our feelings and addressing others respectfully as well. Assertive statements generally begin with “I”:
- I think
- I know
- I believe
- I understand
- I want
- I need
We take responsibility for ourselves and our choices, rather than blaming others for the way our lives are turning out.
Strategy # 1 – The Assertiveness Formula
This formula allows us to speak our truth to another without resentment or anger. We tell someone how we feel about a certain situation – as well as explain why we feel that way and what we need to see instead. Here is the simple template for The Assertiveness Formula.
I feel/felt (emotion or feeling word) _______________,
When you (behaviour) ________________,
Because (reason) _________________,
And what I need/want to see (best possible outcome) is ___________.
For example, to become a “recovering workaholic,” you might want to say something like this to your boss or colleague:
“I FEEL upset WHEN YOU give me more work than I can easily handle in a day, BECAUSE I feel like you’re taking advantage of me – and WHAT I NEED is to be given only my share of the work each day.”
Strategy #2 – The Sandwich Technique (“Positive/Negative/Positive”)
In this strategy, we speak our truth by beginning with something positive, then move into the negative or critical feedback, and then ending with something positive. An example might be something like this:
(Positive) “Thank you for being willing to meet with me today and to hear me.”
(Negative) “I’m having some difficulty with the amount of work I’m being given each day, and I feel as if it’s not the same as the amount that others in this department are receiving. I’d like it if we could talk about that and find some solutions.”
(Positive) “I enjoy working with you and I’m looking forward to many more years here.”
Of course, you can change anything you want to when using the Sandwich Technique to make it more of a fit for you.
Strategy #3 – Training a Puppy
For anyone who has had a puppy, we know that we have to let them know when they are behaving badly – such as chewing up your favourite slippers or making an ‘oops’ on the floor. We need to tell them “Bad dog, don’t do that!” when they exhibit bad behaviour, otherwise they won’t know that we don’t like what they’ve done.
But puppies want to please us, so when they do something wonderful – such as let you know when they need to go out – you can also say “Good puppy!!” and maybe give them a treat.
We can do the same with the people in our lives: Let them know when they’ve done an ‘oops’ to us and also give them praise when they’ve done something we liked. Most people would rather get the praise response than hear “bad puppy!”
I hope that these strategies will prove helpful to you. Remember, if you need some extra assistance to leave your workaholism or codependency behind – help is here for you!