Are you obsessed with your job?


There are people that are so fixated with their careers that it becomes an integral part of their identity. While there’s nothing wrong with working hard towards a successful career, being obsessed with your job can have implications for other parts of your life. By Fundiswa Nkwanyana

A successful career is important to a lot of people. And, being passionate and enthusiastic about your job often leads to career growth. But, this can also develop into an unhealthy obsession that can have detrimental effects on your emotional and mental well-being. The level of emotional investment in a job needs to be closely monitored in order to live a full and happy life.


Obsession is an idea or thought that continually preoccupies or intrudes on a person’s mind. Dr Barbara Killinger the author of Workaholics: The Respectable Addicts, shares that a workaholic is a work-obsessed individual who has gradually become emotionally stunted and addicted to power and control. She adds that they are caught up in a compulsive drive to gain personal approval and public recognition for their success. While on the other hand, Colleen Qvist the owner of CQ Consulting, a personal and business coaching company, believes that we need to understand that obsession is different for everyone. “I often find that people are labelled as work-obsessed by someone who feels left-out, so it’s important to come to your own conclusion or get a mental health expert to help you define it,” Colleen says.

SEE ALSO: Stuck in a work or life rut? Here’s how to fix it


Nowadays, we live in a world where it’s normal to be busy, stressed and overworked. Life coach, Thembi Hama says people who are obsessed with their jobs are more inclined to attend to work-related duties while neglecting or sacrificing their personal needs such as sleep, social interaction, self-care and ‎relationships with family and friends. She adds that they always bring work home, are very competitive towards their colleagues and they constantly worry about underperforming and losing their jobs. There are many reasons why some people display some of these traits, and it’s important to get insight from an expert.  “I was unemployed for five years, and when I finally found a temporary job, I worked so hard that I fainted several times at work,” Zama Chili a healthcare worker says. After running a couple of medical tests, the doctors referred Zama to a counsellor because they believed that her fainting incidents were caused by stress and anxiety related to her job. When Colleen resigned to become an entrepreneur, he dedicated all his time towards building his dream. “I poured all my energy into growing my business, and I stopped having fun with family and friends,” he says. After noticing that his personal relationships were suffering, he started spending more time with them; doing fun activities. This helped him to be more productive at work. Furthermore, Colleen says what worked for him will not necessarily work for everyone else, and advises people to seek professional assistance.


Being obsessed with a job can lead to negative and positive results. Luella Naidoo who is the Director of Jezreil Graig Holdings and has a Master’s Degree in business leadership, believes that some of the reasons why people become fixated is because they are perfectionists, have low self-esteem and are seeking recognition and acceptance. “Some people throw themselves into their work to distract themselves from painful situations, and some from fear of losing their jobs; they want to become irreplaceable,” Luella says. Fear is also believed to be one of the driving forces behind work obsession. People that are consumed are usually afraid of failure, poverty and unemployment. “The quality of your life may also cause you to be obsessed with your work. For example, if you live an expensive lifestyle, you may want to over perform at work in order to maintain that lifestyle,” says Thembi. She adds that people who strongly identity with their job titles tend to be obsessed with their work. It’s important to point out that for some people being obsessed with their jobs can yield positive results. “When I started working as an intern for a financial institution, I was obsessed with my work because I wanted to climb the corporate ladder. I continued to work hard even though my family was complaining, and I’m glad I did because I’m now one of the youngest managers in the company,” Palesa Msimang says. She adds that working hard towards a career goal is often seen as obsessive, and it’s up to an individual to see what works for them.

SEE ALSO: 5 ways to workout the work stress


Family and friends are usually the first people to notice when a person is consumed with their job. “If you are always busy with work, have difficulty relaxing, feel the need to control work related issues and experience memory loss due to exhaustion, then you need to consult with a life or business coach immediately,” Colleen advises. Other signs are internalisation of criticism from a manager, constant preoccupation with work, anxiety, angry outbursts, substance abuse, stress and family problems due to the conflicting demands of family life and work. “If these signs ring a bell, I highly suggest that you seek help before it’s too late,” Luella cautions.


Seeking medical assistance can be costly, but there are a few affordable options to explore. Sometimes you can help yourself by making a few lifestyle changes. “Meditation, exercise and creating a technology time-out to focus on your emotional and mental well-being can be helpful. Most companies offer helpful emotional wellness programmes,” Luella says. People can also reach out to Coaches and Mentors SA at which is a directory for life and business coaches and mentors. “Finding someone to talk to about your problems can help you reach a life and work balance,” Colleen says.  Finding the reasons for your work obsession is important in order to deal with underlying issues. “A clinical psychologist, counsellor or therapist will assist in finding the root cause for this behavior, and recommend specific steps and medication where necessary,” Thembi concludes. Working hard towards growing your career is encouraged, but if your emotional and mental well-being is suffering then it’s not worth it because most companies replace employees who fail to perform their duties.


  • The South African Anxiety and Depression Group
    0800 12 13 14
  • Lifeline

0861 322 322

  • ICAS

0800 212 697