I work in research in a big software company that has offices all around the world. My team is split between the UK and the US. Therefore, there is some overlap during the day in which both teams can work together and have direct communication.

I work in the same office together with another member of my team. I feel very competent at my work, and I achieve my work objectives, but I am starting to feel pressured/uneasy because of my colleague, that turns out to be a workaholic. He is working all the time, either from the office or from home. He admitted in the past that he has no hobbies and that he really finds what he does at work very interesting. My colleague:

  • Has attended all scheduled work meetings during his holidays (and, of course, has worked during this time off)
  • Has attended meetings late at night (UK time) with people from the US part of the team, in spite of the fact that we were told that it was not necessary
  • Actively participates in work discussions in our internal chat at evening times, or extremely early in the morning (earlier than 7:30)
  • Etc.

Our direct manager does not encourage this behaviour, but neither does he discourage it. I am always very clear about these things and give straight answers, like "I am not attending a meeting at 9PM, I am sorry".

At this point I feel guilty. As I said before, I am achieving my work objectives, and I know that working off my schedule is not the right answer, so I'd like to know how to cope with the guilt feelings I got. I am also starting to feel paranoid because I am stating to believe that that kind of behaviour is also expected from me.

  • 4
    Did your manager made any negative feedback about it ? If not, you're doing fine and are overthinking it.
    – Walfrat
    Commented Jan 19, 2017 at 8:59
  • 1
    My manager did not give any negative feedback. However, he is the usual GoodGuy kind of manager that never gives bad feedback. You may be right, however, and I may be overthinking it, and that is why I am feeling guilty. However, my question remains mostly the same: how do I cope with those feelings?
    – ShyPenguin
    Commented Jan 19, 2017 at 9:03
  • 1
    Perhaps this question would be better suited to Psychiatric Help SE. Commented Jan 19, 2017 at 9:21
  • @A.I.Breveleri I guess something more suitable would be "how do I consider myself be professional and recognize as such when I have a workaholic coworker doing way more than me ?"
    – Walfrat
    Commented Jan 19, 2017 at 10:57
  • 2
    If your 15 pieces of flair aren't being compared to his 37, I think you are fine. Commented Jan 19, 2017 at 16:19

4 Answers 4


I Also worked in big software project and I also had some workaholic colleagues.

I would start by saying that a manager is "Happy" to have some poeple like this, I think that your manager is not complaing this because his behavior is in his interests, but also is not openly agrees with him because he know that everyone work with their own differents methods and mentality.

A good manager know that someone could be more attached to work than others, it's normal, specially in software development.

That is only what i think.

I were like you, an advice that i would give to you is that:

If you are working well, and doing your job properly you have nothing to worry about, you have your working method and you are using your spare time as you wish. If your colleague is happy doing this extras shifts, is ok! If you are not, is ok anyway!

  • That is an interesting perspective, and also sound advice. If my manager consistently says that I am doing a good work, I shouldn't think about what others do. If they decide to let me go after receiving such feedback, it means that managers were not good anyway.
    – ShyPenguin
    Commented Jan 22, 2017 at 9:36

I, as a fellow developer, have recently been working loads more than I should on a recent project because it's cool and i'm enjoying it.

I'm not doing it to try to make people feel bad, i'm not doing it to boast at how hard i'm working, it's just simply that I want to do more.

I understand though, that not everyone is like me, some people have kids/other commitments outside of work so can't do that and would never hold it against someone.

What someone does in their spare time is up to them. You are doing your job well so that's all you need to think about.

As a note, people working all hours of the day doesn't mean they are being more productive. It could be that he is taking more time on tasks than he should.

  • Great answer, really liked the "I'm not doing..." part!
    – Artery
    Commented Jan 19, 2017 at 10:36
  • Thank you for your answer. It is very insightful to see things from that point of view. However, I cannot assume that my colleague thinks the same way, and therefore, I feel inclined to look into answers that are focused on myself.
    – ShyPenguin
    Commented Jan 22, 2017 at 9:29

how do I cope with those feelings?

There are various coping strategies, involving ways of justifying his and your behavior, as well as detaching from the issue and refocusing on other matters. I would recommend a blend of these approaches. Success will depend on the ability to realize several points:

  1. Every person comes to a workplace with their unique work style, attitude toward the subject matter, and personal priorities, including life/work balance, responsibilities outside of work, interests, etc. Some people work to live and some live to work. Interpreting work as a productivity race against the other guy means not acknowledging and accepting this reality. No matter how hard you work, someone is always working harder and achieving more. Your workaholic colleague may be racing against someone, too... This is his personal issue. If you want to play catch-up driven by guilt, you can do that. Or, you can appreciate his productivity, but not let it be a standard for your own performance.

  2. What matters is not your colleague's performance, but your performance relative to your job description. In assessment this is thought of as "norm referenced" and "criterion referenced" tests. Your perception of your performance should be criterion-referenced, i.e. based on fixed standards (i.e. your goals in performance review, job duties, quality of work based on standard accepted measures). Pegging your performance to that of another individual makes it norm-referenced, i.e. subjective and relative. This is an easy psychological trap to fall into since our brains are great at making comparisons, and comparisons with other humans (as opposed to written or numeric criteria) are natural and unavoidable. The trick is to discipline your brain, by consciously refocusing the object of the comparison from your peer to other explicit/documented criteria.

  3. Just as you are experiencing guilt about not working as much in relative terms, the workaholic colleague may be a workaholic because of a variety of factors. Keep in mind that the reasons he gives may not be the actual reasons, but merely socially accepted reasons which are considered appropriate justifications, and which he has internalized. Without getting his perspective it is a guess what his actual motives may be, and I recommend sparing yourself this guessing game. A more useful approach here is to let it go, i.e. practice intentional detachment from both his behavior as well as reasons for it. Rather than lamenting the things you are not doing at work, appreciate and find joy in the things that you do get to do, by not working as much. These may be personal side projects, family time, interaction with friends and relatives, self-development and spiritual growth, learning new things and skills, pursuing passions, hobbies, or honorable causes like volunteering or charity.

There will always be more work to do, and you can never do all of it or get even close. But your parents and other loved ones do get older with each day, and before you know it they may not be able to give you their time and share and enrich your life in the same they they may be doing now. Same goes for friends and anyone else who you care about and who cares about you. Same goes for your time and energy, your ideas, ideals, and passions. You can always feel jealous of someone's ability to do something better than you, and there is always room for some healthy friendly competition in the workplace. But letting it consume you and take more of your mental focus than you wish it did can do more harm than good.

There is an incredibly rich world out there outside of work, and my sense is that all too many people get caught up in what happens within the office walls, at the expense of simply being, living in, discovering and enjoying this world. There have been some interesting survey studies of people on their death beds, and what they wish they had done more of when they were younger and healthier. Hardly anyone says "I wish I had spent more time in the office." I keep this in mind every day on my way to work, and it helps me keep my internal compass focused on the things that really matter, so that I don't regret not dedicating enough of myself to non-work-related pursuits years from now, when it may be too late. Good luck!

  • 1
    Thank you for your answer. I already know that working overtime is not the solution. However, I struggle with insecurity feelings about my future in the company because my workmate does.
    – ShyPenguin
    Commented Jan 22, 2017 at 9:38

I presume you are paid equally or only a little bit less than you colleague.

You need to understand why this behavior makes you nervous. Here is a few reasons why this situation would make anyone feel bad.

I'm not sure you feel guilty. You feel insecure. This is totally normal because even if your manager is clear and doesn't want you to work this much, it can still impact you because:

  • He works more than you. If someone needs to be fired because of a decreasing workload or economic reasons, why would your manager choose to keep the one who doesn't work for free?
  • You feel bad because, if you are paid just like him ... Your pay is too high (compared to him). It sucks and your manager must fix it, and give him a big raise. It's unlikely that your manager will tell him to stick to working hours, or pay every hour he works. There is no alternative.

What you can do to fix it:

Obviously, talk to you manager, and expose you fear directly.

I know it's OK to stick to working hours but if one of us has to be promoted, you'll choose him, right?

Word it the way you want but making it a bit shocking reinforces the fact that there is a problem. You could suggest to give your colleague a big raise (if it doesn't impact you). He certainly deserves it. Also, your manager and yourself should not think that you are just 'OK' because your colleague works tons. You're doing quality work, this is a balanced situation between you and you company.

To finish, I would say that you're on the best side here. Dedicating your life to your work/company is very dangerous!

  • Agree with most of this answer, but I would not suggest talking to the manager about the other employee. Make the conversation about you, ask if you are fulfilling expectations, and see if there's anything you should be doing that you are not. Your manager's answer should give you a definitive answer as to where you stand.
    – mcknz
    Commented Jan 19, 2017 at 17:40
  • I agree with the comment above. I indeed do feel insecure, and in disadvantage. However, I do not think that bringing the topic up with my manager will help.
    – ShyPenguin
    Commented Jan 22, 2017 at 9:34

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