Workaholics: Crush or Flush?

Two days ago I posted about a list Jason created on money saving tips for start-ups.  His #11 is:

Fire people who are not workaholics. don’t love their work… come on folks, this is startup life, it’s not a game. don’t work at a startup if you’re not into it–go work at the post office or stabucks if you’re not into it you want balance in your life. For realz.

Jason has been getting quite a bit of fire on this particular tip (as he frequently does as a provocative blogger).  I think I understand where Jason’s coming from and I think his revisions above gets to the heart of his point more precisely.

In any case, David from 37signals has a great response to the comment about working with workaholics, making one rethink the definition of workaholism.  How much of it has to do with passion, how much of it is brought on by other (usually unhealthy) reasons?

I never thought of myself as a workaholic.  There have been times where I put in large amounts of time to the work at hand, but I have to say, the moment work ceased to be enjoyable, every minute I had to dedicate to it was painful.

Here are David’s five reasons to fire workaholics:

  1. Workaholics may well say that they
    enjoy those 14 hour days week after week, but despite their claims,
    working like that all month, all the time is not going to be
    sustainable. When the burnout crash comes, and it will, it’ll hit all
    the harder and according to Murphy at the least convenient time.
  2. People who are workaholics are likely
    to attempt to fix problems by throwing sheer hours at the problem. If
    you’re dealing with people working with anything creatively that’s a
    deadbeat way to get great work done.
  3. People who always work late makes the
    people who don’t feel inadequate for merely working reasonable hours.
    That’ll lead to guilt, misery, and poor morale. Worse, it’ll lead to
    ass-in-seat mentality where people will “stay late” out of obligation,
    but not really be productive.
  4. If all you do is work, your value
    judgements are unlikely to be sound. Making good calls on “is it worth
    it?” is absolutely critical to great work. Missing out on life in
    general to put more hours in at the office screams “misguided values”.
  5. Working with interesting people is more interesting than just
    working. If all you got going for your life is work, work, work, the
    good team-gelling lunches are going to be some pretty boring straight
    shop talk. Yawn. I’d much rather hear more about your whittling
    project, your last trek, how your garden is doing, or when you’ll get
    your flight certificate.

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