Having a workaholic colleague can make your job harder, increase your chances for burnout, and reduce your creativity, productivity, and job satisfaction. Writing for the Harvard Business Review, Melody Wilding, an executive coach, offers four tips on how to work with a workaholic.
It's tempting to think your coworker is overworking in an attempt to one-up you, but that may not be the case. Humans tend to attribute someone else's actions to their character or personality while attributing their own actions to external or situational factors outside of their control, Wilding writes.
Instead of assuming your coworker is looking to outshine or intimidate you, consider other reasons for their behavior, Wilding says. For example, maybe your coworker is dealing with personal issues and is using work as a way to escape, or perhaps they're reacting to past workplace trauma.
Wilding recommends avoiding giving praise for your coworker's actions. For example, if you know they stayed up all night making a presentation, complimenting what they did could be counterproductive. And when they complain about having too much work, don't say, "Wow, you've really been going the extra mile," because that will "reinforc[e] their workhorse mentality," Wilding writes.
It's also important to monitor your own behavior, ensuring what you're doing doesn't enable your colleague. Being a positive role model could provide your coworker with permission to take care of themselves as well.
If you have a workaholic colleague, you may find yourself comparing your work capacity to theirs and wondering if you're working hard enough, Wilding writes. Before you start overworking as well, pay attention to your mindset and avoid extremist thinking. "Taking time off for self-care isn't indulgent, rather it's a prerequisite for your performance," Wilding writes.
If your colleague makes passive-aggressive comments about how nice not overworking is, you can respond by saying, "Yes, it is. I see a lot of people assume they need to work around the clock, but I don't do that, and it's benefitted me in ABC ways. A lot of pressure goes away when you don't buy into the idea that hustling is better."
Workaholics tend not to have many boundaries, often bending over backwards to accommodate any last-minute requests and having difficulty saying no to other requests. You should manage expectations around response times and availability, Wilding writes.
For example, if your coworker asks you to complete a project within 24 hours, you can say, "That's not possible. If you have this sort of task in the future, I'll need at least a three day's notice to work it into my schedule." You could also be an advocate for better systems or processes to eliminate the need for excess work, Wilding writes.
Once you start setting boundaries, your coworker may become upset or resist those boundaries, which is normal and means what you're doing is working, Wilding writes. Ensure you stand your ground and enforce consequences if necessary.
You should also adjust how you view productivity, Wilding writes. "While it may be tempting to gauge your daily success based on the number of hours you work, it's the quality of work you deliver that matters most. Being good at your job doesn't mean working more — it means producing results." (Wilding, Harvard Business Review, 2/1)
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