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Workaholic, or just hard worker?

Evan J. Douglas (Brisbane Graduate School of Business, Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane, Australia)
Robyn J. Morris (Brisbane Graduate School of Business, Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane, Australia)

Career Development International

ISSN: 1362-0436

Article publication date: 1 August 2006




There is a lack of theoretical development on the question of why people work long hours and the nature of “workaholism”. This paper seeks to demonstrate a variety of reasons that induce a person to work “excessively”.


This paper discerns three subcategories of the “work enthusiast”: “materialist”, “the low‐leisure” and the “perkaholic” hard workers. It is demonstrated that these work enthusiasts work long hours for relatively high job satisfaction, while workaholics gain relatively low job satisfaction. Inflicting negative externalities on fellow workers is argued to be a separate issue – any one of the hard workers might irk their fellow workers by working “too hard” or by their individual mannerisms. This paper uses the economist's utility‐maximization model to build a conceptual model of voluntary work effort that explains the work effort decision of individuals.


Individuals will work long hours when motivated to do so by the satisfaction they derive separately and collectively from income (materialism); leisure; perquisites; and work per se. It is argued that only the person who is strongly motivated by the latter reason is properly called a workaholic, and that the imposition of negative externalities on co‐workers is a separate issue that might also involve work enthusiasts.


The paper advances the understanding of work motivation and workaholic behavior and presents a series of researchable propositions for empirical testing.



Douglas, E.J. and Morris, R.J. (2006), "Workaholic, or just hard worker?", Career Development International, Vol. 11 No. 5, pp. 394-417.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2006, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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