The Advantages of (Engaged) Workaholics


By: Kenneth Nowack, Ph.D.

Is there such a thing as healthy Type A workaholics?

Let me share with you some current findings that we haven’t yet published about Type A personalities, with a focus on women at work Envisia Learning.

We did an analysis of 345 working men and 510 women in diverse industries and job levels exploring the relationship between work-life stress, Type A behavior (driven, impatient and achievement oriented style) and cognitive hardiness (optimistic disposition; viewing change as a challenge; having an internal locus of control; high self-efficacy and self-esteem; committed to work and life activities) from our database. We found three interesting outcomes:

  1. Women reported significantly higher levels of overall work and life stress compared to their male counterparts.
  2. Type A women (and men) who were also high on hardiness reported significantly less work and life stress overall.
  3. The highest level of stress was reported by Type A women who also reported low hardiness. Women who are highly competitive, driven and impatient are most likely to experience a high level of stress when they are more pessimistic, and view change as a threat rather than a challenge.

These findings suggest that hardy Type A women can, indeed, “have it all” and remain healthy — both physically and psychologically- if they are also resilient.

One of the most important components of our own Cognitive Hardiness measure used in our research is being committed or engaged with what you are involved in, rather than, alienated and disengaged.

A 2011 study analyzed 1,246 workers in the 40 standard tests used to measure engagement, workaholism, motivation and burnout (those “blah” feelings that make the day drag and make workers depressed). Participants also reported their typical working hours in a week1.

The researchers findings identified three types of hard workers in addition to a group of slackers (nonworkaholic/nonengaged).

  • Workaholics:  These individuals work long hours and are motivated more by external rewards
  • Engaged Talent:  These individuals were loyal and reasonably hardworking.
  • Engaged Workaholics:  These individuals worked extremely hard out of sheer enjoyment and passion for the job, tasks, assignments they are involved in.

The “engaged workaholics” spent the most time on working but unlike “workaholic” employees, engaged workaholics did not experience the highest levels of burnout, suggesting that high engagement may buffer the negative consequences of workaholism.  The researchers believe that classic workaholics are “pushed” to their work, while engaged workaholics are “pulled.”

These hard working, achievement oriented Type A’s love what they do.

As a result they dodge some of the health and fatigue repercussions that disengaged talent typically experience such as high stress, job burnout, absenteeism, less job satisfaction. and poor physical health.

The main finding of this study suggests that workaholism and work engagement were two largely independent concepts.

So, work hard at what you love and love what you work hard at….It will at least bring pleasure and maybe even success

  1. Van Beek, Taris, T, & Schaufeli, W. (2011).  Workaholic and work engaged employees: dead ringers or worlds apart? Journal of Occupational Health Psychology, 16, 468-482


Kenneth Nowack, Ph.D. is a licensed psychologist (PSY13758) and President/Chief Research Officer/Co-Founder of Envisia Learning, Inc., is a member of the Consortium for Research on Emotional Intelligence in Organizations. Ken also serves as the Associate Editor of Consulting Psychology Journal: Practice and Research.

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