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What Research Says About The Relationship Between Self-Esteem and Workaholism

The surprising link between work stress, work styles and low self-esteem.

Image courtesy of Jopwell 

If you have low self-esteem, you may be more likely to be a workaholic, according to a to-be-published study in the journal Personality and Individual Differences.

The researchers found a chain reaction between emotions and behavior: people with low self-esteem were more likely to be workaholics, and workaholism understandably led to people working more and as a result, being more stressed about work.

The research team, lead by Shahnaz Aziz, an organizational psychologist at East Carolina University, argues that people with low self-esteem “throw themselves into work in order to become more successful in a certain facet of their lives in which they feel they have greater influence and control.”

It’s an important reminder that who we are outside of the office can play a profound role on our work style and resulting stress levels, and it underscores how where you’re at emotionally can impact not only your personal, but professional life, too. 

To reach this conclusion, the researchers analyzed the questionnaire responses of 414 faculty and staff members at a large Southeastern university and at a large manufacturing organization to look at the relationship between work stress, self-esteem and workaholism. Participants ranged from between 33-to 73-years-old and worked an average of around 45 hours per week.

Participants took three different online questionnaires to measure their levels of work stress, self-esteem and workaholic tendencies. The workaholism questionnaire, for instance, had participants rate their agreement with statements like “my work often seems to interfere with my personal life,” and the self-esteem questionnaire had participants rate agreement with statements such as “I feel that I have a number of good qualities.”

The researchers note that their findings could be used on an individual and organizational level to help recognize work styles, and ensure that people who may be exhibiting workaholic tendencies can get the support they need. It’s important to note, as the researchers point out in their discussion, that low-self esteem doesn’t directly cause work stress, but could indirectly affect it. Nonetheless, the takeaway is a strong one: parts of our personality we may think we’ve left at home—like the way we feel about ourselves—actually follow us into the workplace.

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