Working Beyond the Bell: School Counselors and Workaholism Tendencies

Added May 29, 2018

The purpose of this study was to evaluate the work habits, personality, and satisfaction of life within a sample of professional school counselors. Specifically, personality and demographic variables (gender, ethnicity, age, partner, and parental status) contributing to workaholism and its subsequent influence on satisfaction with life are examined. The study utilizes the Bergen Work Addiction Scale (2012), the Satisfaction with Life Scale (1985), and The Big Five Inventory (1999). The authors assessed variables such as school type (public/private), work experience (years of work experience), school setting (elementary, middle, or high school) for their relationship with workaholism.

Several important discoveries were made in the exploration of work habits, personality, and satisfaction of life within a sample of professional school counselors. First, workaholism tendencies were significantly correlated to only one of the Big Five Personality Traits: neuroticism. While there was no significant relationship found between the number of years of work experience and workaholism, the results show a connection between workaholism tendencies and school setting (elementary, middle, or high). Based on these findings, workaholism is most likely to occur in high school counselors, followed by elementary school counselors. Based upon these findings, high school counselors are particularly at risk for poor work habits. Lastly, Findings show that workaholics identified within this study experience significantly lower levels of satisfaction with life than their colleagues. This means school counselors who are workaholics are less satisfied with their lives than school counselors who are not workaholics. Previous research indicates that lower levels of life satisfaction can lead to significant mental health related issues, such as depression (Nes et al., 2013) and anxiety (Beutel et al., 2009) while higher levels of life satisfaction are significantly related to career contentment (Pena:Sanchez et al., 2014), resilience, and positive feelings of self:worth (Beutel et al., 2009).

Our recommendation is that school administrators at all grade levels, but especially at the high school level, consider how their counselors’ job responsibilities and work environments may contribute to workaholic tendencies. The findings highlight the need for both administrators and counselors to be mindful of their work habits and the influence of those work habits on their own wellbeing as well as that of their students. The authors recommend developing programs that provide school counselors with tools and techniques to develop better work life balance coping strategies.

Because school counselors may be hesitant to take the BWAS (Ng, Sorensen, and Feldman, 2007) if it is viewed by their supervisors, these programs may need to incorporate a counselor in the community who specializes in work addiction. This professional could use the BWAS, at no cost, to survey school counselors in order to identify and provide individual or group counseling to those who struggle with work addiction. Group sessions could serve as a particularly cost effective strategy for schools. High schools, where counselors are at greater risk of work addiction, could be a natural place to pilot such programs

Amanda Winburn, PhD, University of Mississippi, Oxford; Rebekah Reysen, PhD, University of Mississippi, Oxford; Eric Suddeath, PhD,; University of Mississippi, Oxford; Mandy Perryman, PhD, University of Mississippi, Oxford.


Amanda Winburn, PhD, Rebekah Reysen, PhD, Eric Suddeath, PhD, Mandy Perryman, PhD