Workaholic or high performer: What’s the difference?

workerAccording to Jullien Gordon, a speaker and founding partner of New Higher, workaholism and high performance look a lot alike from the outside, but they’re actually nothing alike. “The big difference is how the individual feels on the inside about who they are in relationship to their work,” Gordon explains. A high performer “works hard in healthy sustainable ways and feels happy and inspired,” he says. But a workaholic “works hard in unhealthy unsustainable ways and feels unhappy and burned out.” Here are three more subtle differences between the high performer and the workaholic:

  • High performers aim to do business, while workaholics aim to be busy. The high performer is focused on results. “If they can’t see a way to create value in the moment, they facilitate or strategize instead,” Gordon writes. Workaholics, on the other hand, “fill any space in time with busy work because they feel insecure doing nothing.”
  • A high performer knows what’s enough: “High performers see more in the areas that matter, but they know what enough is in the areas that don’t matter so much. This comes from having a clear definition of success.” However, workaholics “are always focused on more and seeing to maximize everything because they don’t really know what success means to them.”
  • High performers are aware of themselves and their performance. They evaluate themselves and create their own feedback loops, rather than expecting feedback from others. But workholics rely on external validation from others. They need evaluations and reviews to get a sense of how they’re doing.
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