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Married to the Job: Why We Live to Work and What We Can Do About It by Ilene Philipson


Rating: (Recommended)


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Unhealthy Attachment

After an Executive Times reader suggested I read Ilene Philipson’s new book, Married to the Job, I picked up a copy and immediately became gloomy. The 250 pages of this book are packed with stories of individuals who became so closely linked to their jobs it was as if they were married, hence the title. As a therapist, here’s what Philipson was finding:

“In the spring of 2001, I began receiving an increasing number of new referrals of men and women who had been laid off. They had committed themselves without restraint to workplaces that had been riding the crest of the economic boom. And, suddenly, their worlds crashed down around them as the economy soured and then, later in the year, the World Trade Center was destroyed. These patients’ sense of betrayal often extended beyond the confines of their particular workplace to their very faith in an economic order that seemed to have offered continuous growth and endless possibility.
What all of these patients described going on with them at work was not workaholism. They were not addicted to the content of their work but, rather, deeply emotionally attached to their workplace. That attachment and dependence seemed to consist of many ingredients: the work setting, the social relationships within which the job was embedded, the sense of identity that emanated from being employed by a particular corporation or institution. Being married to one’s job is no more an addition than marriage to a spouse. It is a total personal commitment, a fundamental constituent of one’s identity. It is based on both emotional and economic dependence, and comes first in one’s commitments, in sickness and in health.”

In Married to the Job, Philipson explores the ways in which these attachments develop, especially among women who seem to be more prone than men to the emotional ties of the workplace. She also offers ideas on how to untie the unhealthy knots between you and your work. Employers, especially those managers who create family themes around their organizations, may want to reflect on boundaries that are healthy, rather than the convergence of all personal ties at the office. Here’s a checklist from the book to see if you’re married to your job:

“If you answer yes to 7 or more of the following statements, you may be too emotionally invested in your job.
1. The company I work for is like a family.
2. I feel compelled to check my work e-mail and voice mail when I am away from work.
3. I feel guilty when I can’t go to work (e.g., when I’m ill; when I have to pick up my kids from school).
4. I’d never consider looking for another job.
5. I would feel lonely without my job.
6. One of the best things about my work is getting my boss’s approval.
7. I give over 100% of my effort at work.
8. No one in my personal life counts on me like they do at work.
9. I almost never take the full number of vacation days available to me for the year.
10. I feel I work harder than most of my coworkers.
11. I feel lucky to have the job I have.
12. Weekends are difficult for me.
13. I care more about what other people at work think about me than what my friends or neighbors think.
14. I go to bed at night thinking about work.
15. The thought of leaving my job fills me with dread.
16. My closest friends are at work.”

Whether you’re married to your job or not, you’re likely to nod your head often while reading Married to the Job.

Steve Hopkins, October 2, 2002


ã 2002 Hopkins and Company, LLC


The recommendation rating for this book appeared in the November 2002 issue of Executive Times


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