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Can Workaholics Avoid Burnout? Those in the ‘Engaged’ Category May Be Protected

Posted Feb 15, 2012 6:30 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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Law firm managing partner Elizabeth Valenzuela may be the best kind of workaholic—those engaged workers who put in long hours because they love what they do.

Valenzuela, a lawyer in Sherman Oaks, Calif., puts in 70 to 80 hours a week, but she remains enthusiastic, the Los Angeles Times reports. "There is an excitement about what is around the corner," she says.

A team headed by psychology professor Wilmar Schaufeli at Utrecht University in the Netherlands has coined the term “engaged workaholic” to describe people like Valenzuela who are “pulled” rather than “pushed” to work, the story says. Engaged workaholics work hard because of sheer enjoyment, he says, while classic workaholics are motivated by social rewards, bad consequences and a need for perfection.

Schaufeli's team studied more than 1,200 Dutch workers and found engaged workaholics suffered much less burnout than classic workaholics. The upshot may be that engaged workaholics can avoid negative consequences of working long hours such as work conflicts, poor social relationships and stress-related illness.

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