Workaholic VS High Performer

You may think being a “workaholic” and a “high performer” are very similar in nature, but they are vastly different. They are in fact nothing alike.

A workaholic and a high performer both look like hard workers, but there is a significant difference between the two. The biggest difference is how the person feels on the inside about who they are in their relationship with their work or their career.

A high performer works hard in a healthy environment and is a sustainable asset to a team, and to themselves. This person will feel happy and inspired. A workaholic on the other hand, works hard in unhealthy environments, cannot carry through a sustainable attitude in times of need, feels unhappy, and most of the time has no time to feel inspired.

A workaholic will usually suffer from a burnout. If not now, then something will trigger this in the future.

In my experiences working with both leaders, and the general workforce over the span of my career, I have learnt to identify the key, contrasting differences between the two, some I have included below:

1. High performers know their value. Workaholics allow others to determine their value.

Someone who is a high performer will know their self-worth and can thus work with a sense a freedom. They will unconsciously do periodic self-evaluations of their performance, whether it is in their current roles, or their overall careers, so that they can enable themselves to constantly improve. They unconsciously create their own feedback loops rather than waiting on feedback from others. They are pro-active in solving problems and are strong initiators.

Someone who is a workaholic, on the other hand, will rely on external validation from those around them: their managers, colleagues, customers and other stakeholders. They wait for external evaluations, such as mid-year or annual reviews, to understand how well they are doing, which causes them to work with a constant sense of fear and anxiety.

2. A high performer gives 100% at the right time. A workaholic gives 110% all of the time.

Someone who is a high performer knows when to “turn it up.” They know when they’re expected or required to give everything they have and they save their hard energy for those occasions.

They don’t buy into the illusion of 110%, they know that 110% is unsustainable in the long run. Instead, they focus on increasing their capacity so that their 100% is better than the competition’s 110%. They are sustainable leaders, and sustainable performers.

A workaholic attempts to go all out, all the time. It is for this reason that they burn out so easily, and thus take regular sick days if they are entitled to do so. Workaholics have difficulty prioritising what is important, and they also have a low ability to be able to break down a goal or objective, so that smaller action steps can be put into place. To a workaholic, EVERYTHING is important in their mind.

3. A high performer does business. A workaholic is just busy.

A high performer has a primary goal to do good business, and to do good quality work. The only thing that matters to them is results. If they can’t see a way to create value in the moment, they facilitate or strategise instead. They know that like the economy, business comes in waves, therefore they do the preparation during the troughs so they can capitalise during the peak periods, no matter what profession or industry this high performer is operating in.

The number one goal of someone who is a workaholic is to be busy at all times as they believe that the busier they are or the busier they appear, the more important they must be and thus the more successful they will become.

Workaholics fill any space in time with busy work because they feel insecure doing nothing. The insecurity comes from not knowing their value or their overall worth.

4. A high performer takes initiative. A workaholic is reactive.

A high performer will map out their day in advance to make sure they will get their most meaningful work done. Only after they have completed these takes do they allow themselves to shift focus to unplanned events or tasks. Eyes are on the prize.

By stark contrast, a workaholic’s day is driven entirely by outside distractions like reading emails constantly and handling crises. If and when all of this gets done, they try to do what is most meaningful.

We all fall into the trap of being a workaholic some days, but it is most important to constantly be aware of yourself, how you are tracking, and be realistic about your current situation. The quicker we can realise the differences between the two, the quicker we can bring out the high performer in ourselves.

A high performing approach is critical to career success!