Hi, my name is Fran and I’m a workaholic

There are two types of addictions in this world. Some addictions, like cigarettes and alcohol, when you quit, you quit. I believe* that social smokers and social drinkers are not really addicted. Other addictions, like food and work, are far harder to control. You can’t quit work or quit eating the same way you quit alcohol or cigarettes. Or rather, you can…but the consequences are remarkably unpleasant.

*I would love to hear from social smokers/drinkers who believe they are addicted. My claim is based on personal experience.

In my last post, I quipped about the need for a 12-step program for workaholics. Shortly after posting my commitment to work less, I committed to a 10pm conference call with my Taiwan-based boss. Because…well…I’ve got a problem. And the first step to recovery is admitting that I have a problem. So, I’m confessing it here and now. Cue: Those who know and love me can suck in their fake gasps and raise their eyebrows for effect.

I’ve struggled with this addiction for years. It’s classic behavior for the goal-oriented overachiever. No biggy. Except it’s time to move on and I can’t seem to let go.

Why do I work so many hours? I could bore you with my theories. I’m addicted to the glory? I seek affirming praise? I’m filling a void in my heart & soul? Most addictions seem to stem from our desire to fill a missing element of our being that is best filled by our Creator.

These days I seem to be clinging to the comfortable discomfort of the known versus the frightening unknown. The time has come for me to walk in faith. Just as I’m exercising and trying to have discipline in my diet, I must have discipline in how I’m spending my time. I must devote myself to developing new skills. I must say “no” to some work demands in order to say “yes” to the new habits that will bring me to a new place.

I’m not ready to quit my job, although it sucks me in like an addiction. I am confident that I can change some habits and break free from the addiction’s stronghold.

What are some effective ways to break free from this type of addiction? What’s worked for you?


Work can be an idol

Have you ever said something out loud (or hit “publish” on a post) then realized the implications of what you articulated? Last week I lost sight of my priorities. More accurately, this weekend I realized I’d lost sight of my priorities. The dimming of my vision happened gradually over time; it wasn’t an event that occurred last week. My last post helped me realize my spiritual vision was muddied by the scales covering my eyes.

I was struggling with the dilemma created by my need to recommend pay increases for myself and my team based on a limited budget. In these times of rampant unemployment and folks living from paycheck to paycheck, I suppose it’s not a bad problem to have. Unfortunately, I’m frustrated by my workload. I feel taken advantage of. I’m doing the work of 2.5 people for the same pay I was making 2-3 years ago.

What I forgot is … I’m not that into my career these days. The best thing that could happen to me is for me to turn away from my current devotion. I have to confess, I have an unhealthy and inappropriate devotion to my job. It happens occasionally. My work consumes me. Endless conference calls at the start and close of each day, working through weekends, needing to be in the office during the “normal” business hours. My responsibilities seem to be growing like a virus. The weight of my little organization is causing my shoulders to droop and my head to bow. My thoughts, my time, my spirit are filled with work, work, work.

I pray for relief. I pray for intervention. “God, Please guide me!”

Finally, with the realization I’m inflicting these demands on myself I’ve decided to cut back on the hours I’m devoting to work and allow myself the time I need to devote to other things, like writing. Maybe, just maybe, I don’t need to be doing the work of 2.5 people. It’ll be a blessing to redirect my devotion. Work should not be an idol.

Now it’s just a matter of changing my compulsive bad habits and forming new, healthy habits. Is there a 12-step program for workaholics?

What other idols capture our souls?

My piece of the pie

I am faced with a dilemma this week: a conundrum of sorts. It seems that my little organization in Texas will be graced with a “pay adjustment”. The budget is a small percent of our total salary base. That’s the pie. Adjustments are expected to be performance-based. I was a manager at MFE for years and I’m familiar with their guidelines. I’m not familiar with my current employer’s guidelines. In fact, I’m mystified by my conversation with my Taiwan-based manager on this subject.

One surprise? I need to recommend my own pay increase. I’m a candidate for promotion but the promotion will not come with a pay increase.

The challenge? As the Line Director (responsible for delivering product) I was the highest paid employee in the organization last year. This means small changes in a proposed “percent increase” for me can largely reduce the remainder of the pie.

The dilemma? As the Acting Division Director, I’ve successfully led the team through an evolving business model and driven several initiatives that have more than paid for a year’s salary for my entire organization. My success in this role means the operation is running without the ineffective leader (my ex-boss) who made significantly more than I’m currently making. In the absence of an Administrator/Office Manager (also cut from the organization) I’ve picked up all responsibility for Human Resources, Payroll, Bookkeeping, etc.

What do I deserve? I searched Scripture and found in Proverbs (3:27) “Do not withhold good from those who deserve it, when it is in your power to act.” Surely this applies to my team members and to myself, but it’s an uncomfortable position for me to be in. This is one of the few times in my life that my assessment of what I deserve is in competition with my assessment of what my team deserves.

What would you do? If you give yourself what you think you deserve, there’s less available for the team. If you don’t, would you feel resentment?