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Workaholics can't compensate for unhappy home life

By: April Kleer
29 November, 2012

People who try to deal with an unhappy home life by investing more time and effort at work are deluding themselves, according to a new study recently published by the British Journal of Management.

In a detailed survey of more than 10,000 workers across 30 European countries, the study found there was an overall link between job and life satisfaction – especially for the main earners in households. However, this did not extend to anyone attempting to use work to compensate for dissatisfaction in their personal life.
 
The published article, 'Traditional versus Secular Values and the Job-Life Satisfaction Relationship Across Europe', was co-authored by Thomas Lange, Adjunct Professor of Human Resource Management at Curtin University and Professor in Economics at Middlesex University Business School in London. 
 
"Clearly, life and work domains are interlinked," Professor Lange said.
 
"Happiness at home affects your job satisfaction and vice versa. However, we have found no evidence to suggest that people who are very unhappy at home will feel in any way 'compensated' by their working life.
 
"We know that unhappy people are insecure and have low self-esteem. Because of their negative disposition, these individuals can’t easily relate to other people at a deeper level, and they feel lonely. Since they are not happy with themselves or their lives, they resort to escapism, including workaholism. However, our results indicate that this is a mistake, if the expectation is that more work translates into a happier life."
 
The results in western European countries with a similar GDP per capita, including France, Germany and Austria, demonstrated a weaker link between job and life satisfaction. Yet, there is a much stronger relationship between happiness in the office and at home in Eastern European countries with more traditional value sets and lower GDP per capita, such as Croatia, Hungary and Romania.
 
"The majority of people in countries where more traditional values are prevalent report that work is extremely important in their lives. But this is not always the case for individuals in more modern, less traditional countries where work is considered to be only a small part of their character and personality," Professor Lange said.
 
According to the research, certain life events also play an important role.
 
"We found that happiness at work becomes clearly less important to women’s overall satisfaction when they have pre-school children, potentially due to changing priorities of working mothers," Professor Lange said.
 
"This picture changes considerably when children become teenagers and mothers feel that returning to work becomes a realistic possibility once more."

Similarly, the research suggests the relationship between job satisfaction and general happiness in life is much stronger among single people than for married individuals.

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john | Friday, November 30, 2012, 1:39 PM
Extraordinary anyone could seriously believe a person is unhappy because of low self esteem or relate it to loneliness... when someone loves someone in a different way after being with them for so many years, you simply cannot jus tget up and leave because otherwise you are suffering low self-esteem and loneliness and are unhappy as a result... its because you care and have strong values of commitment that you stay...but if it means working back to be able to cope then so be it...this article is probably offensive to most people in the real world who are not sociopathic..
Rum Charles | Monday, December 3, 2012, 10:00 AM
Hi John I have read and re read the article, and I do not find it offensive, in fact most of it seems very reasonable. In my work I come across unhappy people who display the signs mentioned in the article, they often work long hours to escape their woes, but they are usually unproductive in the way they are working as they have poor concentration and are prone to presentism (the act of being at work physical but mentally and emotional elsewhere). Using work, substances or anything to escape situations or circumstances does not help, the situation at home or the situation at work, it could create tension at work over time, as the person who is unhappy will cliam to being doing a lot of work measured in hours but others will point out their ineffectiveness, further leading to loss of self esteem and happiness. The only way out of this negitive spiral is to deal with the issues in life as they arise. oh and I'm most certainly not a sociopath. have a great day.