Why It’s Risky Hiring Workaholic Salespeople

In sales, you can get lucky but without hard work, you’re not going to get results. So hiring salespeople who describe themselves as “workaholics” sounds like a no brainer, right? Well, it’s not that simple.

Workaholism has gotten a bad rap lately, but what the research reveals is that workaholism is a double-edged sword.

workaholic sleeping at work

Let’s take a closer look at the pros and cons of workaholism.

The definition of workaholism

Research by Professor Clark and colleagues examined workaholism across 8,831 employees.

The researchers define workaholism as an addiction to work that involves feeling compelled to work because you “should” and working beyond what is expected based on the job requirements or your financial needs.

The advantages of workaholism

Workaholism was correlated with

  • hours worked
  • commitment
  • work enjoyment
  • support from your supervisor
  • better career prospects
  • perfectionism (having high standards for yourself, perceiving a large discrepancy between your actual and ideal performance)
  • Type A personality (aggressive, competitive, ambitious, impatient, achievement striving)
  • extraversion (enthusiastic, talkative, assertive, energetic)

The disadvantages of workaholism

Workaholism was also correlated with

  • job stress
  • burnout
  • lower job satisfaction
  • worse physical and mental health
  • counterproductive work behaviors (e.g., theft, sabotage, shirking responsibility, taking credit for someone else’s work)

The non-effect of workaholism

Workaholism was not correlated with

  • work performance

correlation with workaholism

Should you hire workaholic salespeople?

Workaholics have traits correlated with better sales performance such as competitiveness and extraversion, and lower rates of quitting including commitment and better career prospects. However, they also have traits correlated with a higher likelihood of quitting such as burnout and lower job satisfaction.

The big mystery is why workaholism don’t translate into better job performance. It may be that while workaholics work longer hours, they’re not necessarily more productive, or that the cons of workaholism counteract the pros.

So should you hire salespeople who describe themselves as “workaholics”? As long as they’re driven by their passion and enjoyment of selling, you might be able to reap the benefits of these committed hard workers.

Have you had success hiring workaholics as salespeople? Let me know in the comments or tweet @ideal.

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Ji-A Min

Ji-A Min

Head Data Scientist at Ideal
Ji-A Min is the Head Data Scientist at Ideal. With a Master’s in Industrial-Organizational Psychology, Ji-A promotes best practices in data-based recruitment. She writes about research and trends in talent acquisition, recruitment tech, and people analytics.
Ji-A Min