There’s nothing wrong with working hard. America has long been a land of ambitious, success-hungry people, and that’s part of what makes the country great. But there’s a difference between caring about your career and becoming obsessed — to the detriment of other aspects of your life.
As licensed therapist and job coach Melody Wilding writes in a Daily Muse post titled “5 Signs You’re Way Too Emotionally Invested in Your Job,” there’s a point where work “brings you down more than it lifts you up,” and that’s a place you do not want to reach.
Wilding offers some warning signs that you’re veering toward career obsession, and the first is that you “internalize criticism” and act defensively when managers offer feedback on your work. According to Wilding, feedback is an inevitable part of taking on greater responsibility, and it’s not necessarily a sign you’re doing a lousy job. Rather, it’s “an opportunity to learn and perform better the next time,” and if you genuinely care about your work, that can’t be a bad thing.
Next up: “You take your work home with you.” If you’re the type of person who brings you phone to the dinner table and checks emails 24-7, it’s time to take a step back. Work-life balance is a beautiful thing, and it’s essential to avoid burnout.
Similar to burning out is flipping out and falling to pieces in what Wilding calls “high-pressure situations.” If you find yourself yelling at colleagues or reacting to bad news by immediately panicking and working extra-long days, you need to “take a step back,” as Wilding writes, “and accept that there are many things—in work and in life—that you simply can’t control.”
If any or all of the previous three warning signs apply to you, it’s likely you find your identity in your job title, which is No. 4 on Wilding’s list. Again, it’s important to feel invested in the work you do, but when you define yourself by your job and lose sight of the other things that make you you, it’s time to take five and reassess.
Not sure whether you’ve crossed the line? Consider asking friends and loved ones — you know, provided they’re still talking to you. Wilding’s final warning sign is “Your relationships are rocky,” and indeed, if you’re becoming a workaholic, your unhealthy habits will affect your interactions with those around you. And that’s too bad, because while jobs are temporary, Wilding writes, “your relationships are the lifelines that can buoy you through rough patches.”