Working for a Workaholic: 10 Strategies to Save Your Sanity

Ever had a workaholic boss? You're glued to your phone, compulsively checking email notifications at 3 AM, and have long given up making weekend plans you'll only have to cancel last minute.

While some people love giving their all to their jobs and thrive off of setting and achieving aggressive goals, that always-on mentality isn’t for everyone. If you’re the type of person who needs a firm separation between office and home, working for a workaholic can be stressful, as you feel obligated to adopt their mindset and habits at the risk of your own sanity.

If you're feeling pressured to skip your lunch break, answer emails at midnight, and take stacks of work home with you, skip the Irish coffee and read our 10 tips for working for a workaholic instead.

1. Remember that your work style is valid.

Even if you give 100% when you’re at the office, you can start to feel like you’re not doing enough just because you’re not answering emails at all hours, or because you leave your work laptop behind when you go on vacation. Remember that your value is based on the quality of your contributions, not just the quantity, and that you don't need to put in 80 hours a week to be a good employee.

2. Don’t assume that just because your manager is a workaholic, they expect the same from you.

Chances are, they understand their work style isn't for everyone. So communicate! Talk about how and when you can be reached when you aren’t in the office and under what circumstances. If your manager knows they can get ahold of you when it really counts, they might feel less anxious about having you available all the time.

3. Decide what your limits are and communicate them.

If your boss really does expect you to be available 24/7, you'll need to be proactive about protecting your personal time. A good manager will understand that if the work (and worker) is suffering, a change needs to be made. If you’re taking on so much that you can’t be effective at your job, tell your boss that you're spread too thin, and come prepared with solutions to propose. Have a list of projects you think a teammate would be better suited to handle, or suggestions for how to improve processes and make tedious work less time consuming.

4. Once you've set your limits, stick to them.

Even if you’ve had “the talk” about work/life balance, old habits die hard, so you may have to remind your boss a few times about your agreement. If you're still regularly getting assignments on Friday evening that are due Monday morning, don’t be afraid to say, “I’m sorry, but I have a prior commitment this weekend.”

5. Schedule an after-hours commitment.

Sign up for a 6 PM spin class, or make it known you have to catch the 5:25 train. By having a definite "hard stop" scheduled, you won't end up staying progressively later because you feel pressured to, or because you keep getting handed tasks to complete. Plus, your co-workers and boss will learn to anticipate and accept when you’ll be off for the night.

6. Consider shifting your hours.

Will working 10 AM to 7 PM get you more face time? People are more likely to notice those who stay a few hours late more than those who come in early, even though the number of hours worked is the same.

7. Be willing to step up when it counts.

It's good to set healthy boundaries, just don't be stubborn when your team really needs you. Chances are, you'll have a few late nights at the office or a big project that eats up a Sunday evening now and again. As long as it's not every weekend, be willing and gracious about stepping up to help out your team when it's important.

8. Keep track of your achievements and productivity.

Every time you cross an item off your to-do list or successfully complete a big project, make a note so you can prove that you’ve earned your evenings and weekends. If you’re committed to your work, efficient, and deliver good results, eventually your hours will become a non-issue.

9. Ask for advice.

Workaholics spend a lot of time at the office and have likely learned all the ins and outs of your field, which makes them a valuable learning and mentoring resource for you. Take advantage of their knowledge by asking them for advice, particularly on projects that you find challenging.

10. Focus on the positives.

Working for a workaholic boss can be a good thing — it can push you to pick up new skills, give you the opportunity to tackle high-profile projects, and put you in the spotlight for promotions. If you’re willing to buckle up and put in a few extra hours, you could be along for an exciting ride!

Reclaim Your Work-Life Balance

The good news is you don't have to work 24/7 to impress your workaholic boss. Browse our archive of productivity tips and tools to get more done from 9-5, then check out our Q&A with Overwhelmed author Brigid Schulte for the secret to a healthy work/life balance.

Sources: Forbes.com, Fortune.com, TheProductivityPro.com, The Wall Street Journal

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