OFFICE POLITICS 101: A co-worker may be a workaholic: how can I help?

Q: I work with a wonderful woman who is becoming a friend but I would say she is a workaholic. She arrives early, leaves late, and often takes work home. I’d like to help her but I’m not sure what to say. Ideas?

While she certainly sounds like a typical workaholic, be cautious about making assumptions, at least until you find out more about her responsibilities.

I wonder if she is relatively new in her position and feeling overwhelmed. She may be making every effort to master the necessary skills as soon as possible which might explain her extended time at work.

She may have accepted a project from her supervisor which includes some additional duties over and above her regular tasks: this could also explain why she is taking work home.

You may find she is feeling temporarily overworked and needs to spend the additional time to catch up in order to meet a deadline set by her boss.

But I will assume you have determined she is exhibiting workaholic tendencies: what should you do? Is it your responsibility to recommend any changes in her behaviour?

You say you are becoming friends, which may mean you can be comfortable sharing your thoughts with her. She is almost certainly aware of her condition, so be sensitive and tactful with any remarks you choose to make.

Remember, too, that your motives will be important to consider. Do you feel she is performing at a higher level than you? Are you perhaps somewhat jealous of her work ethic?

Possibly colleagues have commented positively about her standard of work and you see her as potential competition for a promotion.

Friends care for each other, however, and I would encourage you to express your concerns in a way that is supportive; you may even offer to provide some assistance, if appropriate.

Workaholics frequently exhibit traits of perfectionism, I’ve found, so you should be aware that any changes she may choose to make will almost certainly be nominal.

Your genuine concern with your co-worker’s life at the office is laudable; however, you should determine if she is, in fact, a workaholic. If she is, you will need to treat her with understanding and empathy, realizing she probably won’t be open to making significant adjustments to her work behaviour.

Simon Gibson is an experienced university professor, marketing executive and corporate writer. He has a PhD in education from Simon Fraser University and a degree in journalism from Carleton University. Submit your confidential questions relating to work and office life to

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