Are You a Workaholic?

“Music teachers may be prone to workaholism simply because of the nature of their jobs,” says NAfME member Vincent Kantorski. “There’s so much to do, and so little time to recharge our batteries before starting all over again.”

Kantorski says some music teachers feel compelled to spend so much time working to help build or maintain their reputations as successful teachers or to keep up with the demands of the job.

While one or more of the following behaviors doesn’t necessarily signal a workaholic, they are typical of people addicted to work:

  • Constantly plugged in to work— “If we choose, we can be plugged in to work constantly with Blackberries, cell phones, e-mail, iChat, iPads, Skype, text messaging, voice mail, etc., even on vacation. With so many ways to connect,” says Kantorski, “where and when do people work? For a workaholic the answer is simple: ‘Anywhere and anytime.’”
  • Perfectionism—For a perfectionist, regardless of how much time or effort is expended, the goal remains elusive. “If music teachers have the mindset of ‘getting it perfect,’ they’ll set the bar impossibly high for their students, who may conclude, erroneously, that they haven’t done well.”
  • Delegating work—Often workaholics believe the only way to have something done well is to do it themselves. Not delegating work can leave colleagues unprepared to take over during an absence, especially during high-pressure periods like concert time. This can adversely affect students, colleagues, parents, or administrators, especially during a schoolwide function.


Learn to Say No.

“Music teachers are asked to do legitimate and important extra work,” says Kantorski, “but before committing to the task, they should consider three things:

  • How much time it will take
  • When it will occur in the school year
  • How much stress it will add.

A workaholic may not think about these issues before agreeing to participate, or if he or she does, may agree to do it anyway. Committing to the extra work could come at a price.”

Schedule Nonwork Time.

Schedule family, social, exercise, and other leisure activities on your calendar, and give them the same importance as work activities. Some workaholics may need help from family or friends to find time for leisure activities that will fit easily into their work schedule so they’ll have little or no excuse for canceling.

Take a Break.

Workaholics have trouble taking breaks. They’re either so immersed in their work that they don’t want to take a break or they may feel guilty for taking a break—even when sick.

Check Your Health.

Visit a doctor periodically, “if only for a basic checkup, especially to monitor the ‘silent killers’ of blood pressure and cholesterol,” says Kantorski. “These checkups may show that significant changes need to be made in diet, exercise, stress levels, or other aspects of life.”


Kantorski recommends some books for those with workaholic tendencies:

Workaholics: The Respectable Addicts—A Family Survival Guide, by Barbara Killinger

When Work Takes Control: The Psychology and Effects of Work Addiction, by Pernille Rasmussen

Chained to the Desk: A Guidebook for Workaholics, Their Partners and Children, and the Clinicians Who Treat Them, by Bryan Robinson

Coming Up for Air: How to Build a Balanced Life in a Workaholic World, by Beth Sawi.

Workaholics Anonymous Book of Recovery, by Workaholics Anonymous World Services Organization.

The Workaholics Anonymous website

This article was adapted from “Workaholic Music Teachers,” by Vincent J. Kantorski. Reprinted with permission of TRIAD, the official publication of the Ohio Music Education Association, Lisa Hanson, editor. Not for further reproduction without permission of OMEA. “Workaholic Music Teachers,” Vincent Kantorski; Volume 78 (2), pp. 39-43, December 2010/January 2011.
Vincent J. Kantorski is a professor of music education at Bowling Green State University in Ohio.

Linda C. Brown, originally posted March 16, 2011, © National Association for Music Education (