Pritish Chakraborty

Work and Everything Else

[Review] Workaholics vs High Performers

I recently came across this article on BusinessInsider (via LinkedIn) that piqued my interest. It attempts to differentiate between a high performer and a workaholic.

The article in question brings out three points, which I summarize here (if you don’t want to read the article first) -:

  1. High performers know their value. Workaholics allow others to determine their value.
  2. High performers give 100% at the right time. Workaholics give 110% all of the time.
  3. High performers do business. Workaholics are busy.

These points raise more questions than they answer. For example -:

  1. How does one know their value? Surely it cannot be that easy being not insecure, given how rampant impostor syndrome is (atleast) in the tech industry.
  2. If one is unknowingly a workaholic, how do they become a high performer?

I am not sure of the answer to 1, but after a discussion with a wise senior colleague and friend, perhaps the answer to 2 is a little clearer. He explained that the difference between a workaholic and a high performer becomes apparent when you see what they do with their time.

A high performer (who is sure of their value) makes time for other pursuits and things in life. They wish to grow wholly, not just at their job. The pursuit could be creative, such as music, writing, or fitness-related, such as weightlifting, strength training, endurance training, or making time for family and friends and doing new things with them, etc. you get the idea. They cycle around problems in their head (which is probably what the OP meant by prioritization, and I’ve seen my wise friend do the same effectively) and do things one at a time. They don’t rush into things unless there’s a need to.

However, this differentiation comes with its caveats. If there is nothing else going on in your life, and work takes up most of it (plenty of gigs where you won’t get time for anything else), the line between a workaholic and a high performer blurs considerably. Circumstances and conditions may not be in one’s control. You might even have a job where you have to grind everyday, no other options given. Thus, one should probably take this article with a pinch of salt, and it doesn’t seem to apply cleanly to all kinds of jobs. YMMV.