Five warning signs of becoming a corporate maniac

Corporate maniacs can make life intolerable. Many of these leaders don't even know they're acting like one. Is it possible that you're a corporate maniac? Leadership coach John M McKee provides five warning signs to look out for.

Motivational Deficiency Disorder - A condition characterized by extreme laziness identified by Australian neurologist Leth Argos and documented in the British Medical Journal in 2006. The report said the condition, designated as MoDeD, may affect up to 1 in 5 people. It is characterized by an overwhelming and debilitating apathy.

The above turned out to be a spoof. Too bad. It might have been a great new opportunity for anyone wanting to get out of the office; and there's no shortage of those individuals who enjoy booking-off.

On the other hand, there really are a lot of people who suffer from the opposite of "MoDeD." They're the ones who arrive in the office or appear online before anyone else everyday, and also the last ones to sign-off or head home at the end of the day. This malady, as we all know by now, is called being a workaholic. It's bad enough when one of your peers has it, and it can be particularly damaging when the boss is afflicted. In those cases, (s)he may become dysfunctional, making bad decisions and negatively impacting the entire organization. Additionally, the leader may create a sick culture. I'm talking about those places where everyone works long hours, often without taking their vacation time. When you step into one of those environments, there's a real flat feeling. Very little creativity occurs and workers don't interact positively in many cases.

In his book, Supercapitalism, University of California at Berkeley prof Robert Reich noted that most Americans are struggling to keep up professionally. His advice to leaders was to keep reminding themselves that the quality of work is much more important than the quantity. He asked this question: "Can we change the rules.. to give people better odds of having a whole life...?"

How can you tell if you're a corporate maniac?

As an executive and leadership coach, my position on this question is, "I'm not sure." Despite ample research and evidence, many team leaders just don't seem to understand the importance of letting people take time off, even if the company has policies against asking people to forgo vacations or to work long hours. These toughies tell me things like, "If someone can't get the job done in 40 hours a week, then they should take 50." They may smile when they say it, but the message is still very clear.

If you think you may be on the cusp of becoming one of these corporate maniacs, here are a few warning signs to watch out for:

  1. You and your spouse/partner fight about your hours. Remember: it's not what you say that counts. It's your actions.
  2. When one of your team is going on vacation, you "forget." And then you plan an important meeting for the Wednesday of the week she'll be away, causing her to cancel or come in during the break.
  3. Friends and family members quit inviting you to holiday events, dinners out, even birthday parties.
  4. You find it hard to resist calling or texting subordinates while you're in your car, or at home. (Even if you don't have a crisis.) You tell yourself that this is how colleagues act. You actually believe that the person on the other end enjoys keeping in contact with you after hours.
  5. It doesn't seem wrong to come into work when you're sick. After all, you say, you can always take time off later (but you never do).

Others have figured out the "real" you - even if you haven't.

If any of these hit close to home; it's time to ask yourself some serious questions before you're too far gone.

Do you want to continue this way? If not, what's stopping you from changing your habits?

I frequently hear from clients that they "really do want to lighten-up" but they can't because of the job demands. However, in general, that's not the true situation. Often there are others who could take care of things in the absence of the leader, if only he'd let them. If you'd say the same thing, it's time to have an honest discussion with yourself and then either:

  • Accept your style for what it is and be prepared to accept the negative consequences (family, friends, health, quality of life) of being a workaholic.
  • Commit to making a change in your style and outlook. Recruit someone (husband, partner, coach, pal) to help keep you on course when you might waiver.

Because on this point, the research is clear: regardless of their addiction, most addicts can't make big changes all by themselves.

Good Luck.


Leadership Coach

If you have a leadership question or need some advice on a leadership topic, email John at with "Leadership Coach" as your subject line.


John M. McKee is the founder and CEO of, an international consulting and coaching practice with subscribers in 43 countries. One of the founding senior executives of DIRECTV, his hands-on experience includes leading billion d...

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