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Is this the real reason you work so hard?

Overwork banking

If you work in an investment bank, you’re probably no stranger to hard work. Despite banks’ best efforts to cut working hours, practitioners say 75 hour weeks are still commonplace. 

Anyone who’s been working 15-hour days since January might attribute their diligence to deal-flow or to the demands of the job. But a new academic study suggests very hard work might instead having something to do with pathological psychological dysfunction.

Undertaken by academics at the Polish Academy of Sciences, Warsaw and the University of Trier, Germany, it looked at 129 men and 41 women in Poland and Germany and reached the conclusion that the excessive workers had “issues”. And with most of them working 30 hour weeks, their hours were moderate compared to investment banks anyway.

Academic literature differentiates between between people who work a lot because they’re “engaged” and people who work a lot because they suffer “work cravings”. If you’re in the first category, you’re “intrinsically motivated… vigorously and effectively connected with their work activities, and well able to meet the demands of your job.” If you’re in the second category, you’ve got problems.

You know if you’ve got work cravings if you answer a lot of the questions on the list below affirmatively. The questions come from the 28 point Work Craving Scale, developed as part of the Work Craving International Project (WCIP) run by German and Polish universities.

You’re a work-craver if…

1. It’s hard for you to think about something other than work when you’re not working.

2. Overworking makes you feel important.

3. You keep working until you’re extremely exhausted.

4. When you’re not over-working you feel bad for neglecting your work.

5. Over-working makes you feel accepted by others.

6. You feel relaxed when you work hard.

7. You feel defeated if someone completes a task better than you.

8. You feel that if you don’t set yourself the very highest standard you’ll be a second class person.

9. You feel that people will evaluate you very negatively if you make a mistake at work.

10. You find that it takes you a very long time to work perfectly.

And work-craving is made worse when…

The new study also suggested that people who suffer from work cravings do so because they lack an ability to curb feelings of agitation. They’re not good at suppressing the feelings of anxiety, agitation, and irritation that result from failures or threats. On the other hand, the academics found that psychological distress doesn’t cause work cravings, although the cravings cause psychological distress…

Photo credit: The treadmill by Karsten Seiferlin is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

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