Identifying Qualitative Inquiry Themes in Research

For this discussion, complete the following:

  • Summarize briefly the article you selected during the library search in this unit’s study.
  • Identify where you found the article.
  • Explain the theme as it is used in the article and as it relates to qualitative analysis.
  • Evaluate the theme you selected.
  • Discuss how you might apply the theme to a qualitative study. Be sure to provide your rationale for selecting the theme.

Design Strategies

Design strategies include the following themes:

  • Naturalistic inquiry.
  • Emergent design flexibility.
  • Purposeful sampling.

Data Collection and Fieldwork Strategies

Data collection and fieldwork strategies include the following themes:

  • Qualitative data.
  • Personal experience and engagement.
  • Empathic neutrality and mindfulness.
  • Dynamic systems.

Analysis Strategies

Analysis strategies include the following themes:

  • Unique case orientation.
  • Inductive analysis and creative synthesis.
  • Holistic perspective.
  • Context sensitivity.
  • Voice, perspective, and reflexivity.

Reference for the article in the attachment

Kirrane, M., Breen, M., & O’Connor, C. (2018). A qualitative investigation of the origins of excessive work behaviour. Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology, 91(2), 235-260. doi:10.1111/joop.12203

Persistent link to where to article was retrieved

Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology (2018), 91, 235–260

© 2018 The British Psychological Society

A qualitative investigation of the origins of excessive work behaviour

Melrona Kirrane 1 * , Marianne Breen

2 and Cli�odhna O’Connor3

1 Dublin City University Business School, Ireland

2 Trinity College Dublin, Ireland

3 University College Dublin, Ireland

Studies of workers who engage in excessive work behaviour continue to attract the

attention of researchers. Most research in this field adheres to quantitative methodolo-

gies aligned to the addiction or trait paradigms and largely focuses on correlates and

consequences of such behaviour. However, within this literature, empirically based

understandings of the factors that propel individuals to engage in excessive work patterns

are sparse. Resting on socio-cultural theories of work, we adopt a novel approach to this

field of enquiry and examine the genesis of excessive working using a qualitative

methodology. We use discourse analysis to comparatively explore data from a sample of

twenty-eight workers comprising excessive and non-excessive workers. Our study

identified the roles of family of origin, educational experience, and professional norms as

clear drivers of excessive work patterns. Data to support the dominant addiction and trait

paradigms within this research domain were equivocal. Lifestyle decision-making

differentiated the comparison group from the excessive workers. We discuss our

findings with reference to theories of workaholism and consider their implications for the

evolution of this field.

Practitioner points

� Organizational culture can strongly influence the emergence of excessive work patterns among employees. Human resource professionals and organizational leaders are in a position to intervene in

the development and support of work cultures that are conducive to effective work patterns

� Employee selection and assessment procedures should be sufficiently in-depth to gather relevant information into the personal backgrounds of applicants

� Employee development initiatives should take account of learned work orientations to ensure the effectiveness of interventions.

The globalized post-industrial society is characterized by a 24-hour economy (Granter,

McCann, & Boyle, 2015) and has led to the normalization of intensive work (Worrall,

Mather & Cooper, 2016). As research suggests figures of 10 per cent and more of the working population engage in these lifestyles (Andreassen et al., 2014; Sussman, Lisha, &

Griffiths, 2011), understanding the genesis of these types of work practices is now an

important endeavour. Intensive working is commonly captured by the term ‘worka-

holism’ which initially arose to describe the mindset of individuals most deeply involved in

*Correspondence should be addressed to Melrona Kirrane, Dublin City University Business School, Collins Avenue, Dublin 9, Ireland (email:





work-focused lifestyles (Oates, 1971). Over the years, the terminology used to describe

such practices has broadened to include work addiction (Robinson, 1998) excessive

overwork (Andreassen, 2013), obsessive passion for work (Vallerand, Paquet, Philippe, &

Charest, 2010), heavy work investment (Golden, 2014; Snir & Harpaz, 2012), work craving (Wojdylo, Baumann, & Karlsson, 2016), and work over-involvement (Lehr, Koch,

& Hillert, 2010) 1

Most studies of workaholism to date are quantitative investigations of correlates and

consequences of workaholism. One of the strongest outcomes of such work has been the


Wijhe, Schaufeli & Peeters, 2010). However, work patterns are acknowledged to emerge

from an interactive process that occurs between the individual and their environment

(Osipow, 1990). While theorists have signalled the important role of socio-cultural processes in understanding intensive work patterns (Mazzetti, Schaufeli, & Guglielmi,

2014; Porter, 1996; Snir & Harpaz, 2006, 2012), field studies within this domain remain

disappointingly limited (Sussman, 2012). In this study, we build on socio-cultural theory

(SCT) which highlights dynamic and situation-specific elements of the individual that

together lead to vocational outcomes (Bandura, 1999). Taking a qualitative approach, we


a sample of excessive workers. We compare their accounts with those of a comparison

group of non-excessive workers drawn from the same context. In this way, we provide a solid foundation for understanding the intense career pathways of such workers.

Theoretical background to workaholism research

Research in the field of workaholism has been dominated by the addiction model and the

trait theory approach (Sussman, 2012). The addiction model considers the phenomenon

to be an irresistible inner drive to work excessively hard (Andreassen & Pallesen, 2016),

and it is described as a progressive, compulsive, potentially fatal disease (Porter, 1996; Robinson, 1998). Despite the absence of evidence that excessive working shares

psychophysiological characteristics of established definitions of addiction (McMillan, O’

Marsh, & Brady, 2001; Porter, 1996) and its exclusion from the DSM-5 (American

Psychiatric Association, 2013), many researchers continue to draw on the addiction

model of workaholism as a conceptual framework for their work (Andreassen, Griffiths,

Hetland, & Pallesen, 2012; Griffiths, 2011). Such studies typically measure work addiction

quantitatively, and although some recent promising additions have been made

(Andreassen et al., 2012; Schaufeli, Shimazu, & Taris, 2009), the most widely used measure, the Work Addiction Risk Test (Robinson, Post, & J. Khakee, 1992), is not

regarded as rigorous, rendering research based on it vulnerable to criticisms (Andreassen

et al., 2012; Bowler, Patel, Bowler, & Methe, 2012; Flowers & Robinson, 2002; Sussman,


A further theoretical paradigm deployed widely in this field is the trait theory

approach. This perspective construes excessive working, associated with traits such as

neuroticism, conscientiousness, narcissism, and perfectionism (Andreassen et al., 2012;

Clark, Lelchook, & Taylor, 2010) as a manifestation of a ‘stable individual difference characteristic’ (Burke, 2004, p. 421) comprising the psychological dimensions of high

1 For the sake of parsimony and consistency with previous literature, the term ‘workaholism’ will be used in this article, but should

not be taken to necessarily imply agreement with the addiction model of these work patterns.

236 Melrona Kirrane et al.



work involvement, high drive, and low work enjoyment (Spence & Robbins, 1992).

Although this model has been criticized for its lack of conceptual rigour (Harpaz & Snir,

2003; Robinson, 2001; Scott, Moore, & Miceli, 1997), considerable research continues to

rely on it as a platform for investigation (Burke, Matthiesen, & Pallesen, 2006; Clark et al., 2010). Unfortunately, resultant isolated correlations have not led to the development of a

coherent theoretical framework (Harpaz & Snir, 2003; Kanai, Wakabayashi, & Fling, 1996;

McMillan, Brady, O’Driscoll, & Marsh, 2002; Mudrack & Naughton, 2001).

While these two theoretical perspectives have driven research streams which have

provided information on the correlates and consequences of intensive work practices

(Baruch, 2011; Giannini & Scabia, 2014; Ng, Sorensen, & Feldman, 2007; Robinson, 2013;

Sussman, 2012), each shows distinct weaknesses and leaves the question of the aetiology

of workaholism empirically unanswered (Quinones & Griffiths, 2015; Spurk, Hirschi, & Kauffeld, 2016). Moreover, these approaches are characterized by positioning worka-

holism entirely within the individual. Holding some promise of greater refinement of the

genesis of excessive work patterns are studies that explore the contribution of other

factors to this behaviour. These include unsatisfied needs (Burke, 2004; van Beek, Taris, &

Schaufeli, 2011), cognitions (Graves, Ruderman, Ohlott & Weber, 2012), social learning

(Burke, 2001), family dynamics (Chamberlin & Zhang, 2009; Robinson, 2013), and

organizational culture and climate (Keller, Spurk, Baumeler, & Hirschi, 2016; Johnstone &

Johnston, 2005; Mazzetti et al., 2014). In general, such elements have been treated as peripheral within the dominant research paradigms, and the causal influence of some

have, at times, been explicitly denied (e.g., Robinson, 1998). Although the importance of

these issues has been highlighted (McMillan, O Driscoll, & Burke, 2003), they remain

underexplored in empirical work and their role in the phenomenon of excessive work

patterns remains tentative (Andreassen, 2014; McMillan et al., 2003; van Wijhe et al.,


Socio-cultural factors and the construal of workaholism

Applying a socio-cultural perspective to understanding the origin of workaholism

represents a rich starting point in research on excessive working patterns. The socio-

cultural approach to understanding behaviour which recognizes the role of norms,

customs, and values of the general population has demonstrated that work norms,

attitudes, and practices are influenced by multiple layers of socio-cultural factors (Kanai &

Wakabayashi, 2004; Lantolf, 2000). At the broadest level is national culture which has a

singular effect on how people construe themselves at work (Brewer & Chen, 2007; Gahan & Abeysekera, 2009; Triandis, 1990). This effect is perhaps best illustrated by the

phenomenon known as ‘karoshi’, a term coined by Sugisawa and Uehata (1998) to refer to

the particular Japanese phenomenon of death or permanent disability caused by

cardiovascular problems, mediated by excessive work and stress. In Japan, work is

regarded as an element of living in that one is supposed to live in accordance with the

order of society (Ishiyama & Kitayama, 1994; Kanai & Wakabayashi, 2004). Psycho-social

factors such as a social value system that exhorts perseverance and the concept of

‘ganbaru’, which means to suffer in silence and to endure difficulties, are regarded as perpetuating the syndrome (Meek, 1999, 2004). Considering these features of Japanese

cultural life fosters a deeper understanding and appreciation of the phenomenon of

karoshi and underscores the impact of socio-cultural factors in approaches to work.

A second element of the socio-cultural landscape that has a significant impact on work

behaviours is the familial context (Lawson, Crouter, & McHale, 2015; Piotrowski &

The origins of excessive work behaviour 237



Vodanovich, 2006; Robinson, 2000). The family of origin influences work behaviours as

values, norms, and expectations for achievement are transferred and internalized via

parent–child relations (Schaie & Willis, 1996). This process is well explained by the expectancy-value theory of achievement (Wigfield & Eccles, 2000). The family an individual creates themselves as a socio-cultural feature also significantly influences

workplace behaviour (Janoski & Wilson, 1995). Involvement in multiple roles causes ‘spill

over’ which effects behaviour and actions of individuals in both contexts (Arnett, 2014;

Livingston, 2014; Wayne, Casper, Matthews, & Allen, 2013).

Educational systems are an integral feature of the socio-cultural landscape and their

influence on workplace behaviours (Billett, 1998; Konkola, Tuomi-Gr€ohn, Lambert, & Ludvigsen, 2007), are emphasized in Bronfenbrenner’s (1979) ecological model of human

development. By introducing pupils to notions of achievement and authority, coping and time management skills, this social system provides the intellectual and social skills that

children will use to perform roles within the adult world (Haycock, Hart, & Irvin, 1991;

Tomlinson, 2013). In essence, school educates students on how to become fully

functioning and productive members of society and fosters the development of

appropriate work attitudes and habits deemed important for the continued development

of the social world (Goodlad, 1984; Kourilsky & Walstad, 1998).

Finally, organizational norms of behaviour are a well-established feature of the socio-

cultural environment (Rousseau, 2005; Schein, 1985; Schneider, Ehrhart, & Macey, 2013). Research has established the potent effects of such norms on workplace behaviour

(Hogan & Coote, 2014; Lee & Yu, 2004), and organizations go to great lengths in fostering

the development of performance-enhancing workplace cultures (O’Reilly, Caldwell,

Chatman, & Doerr, 2014). Taking all these factors together, this literature aptly

demonstrates that to fully understand the origin of excessive work patterns, there is

value to be gained from immersing the study of such behaviour within its socio-cultural


Researching workaholism

According to the epistemology of social constructionism, human knowledge does not

result from individuals’ direct perception of ‘brute reality’, but rather is co-constructed in

social interaction and always mediated by language, interpretations, and values (Berger &

Luckmann, 1996; Potter, 1996). As such, equally important as what does cause the

behaviour patterns termed ‘workaholism’ is what people believe causes it, because the

latter will guide how people manage their own career-related behaviour. To date, this remains unchartered territory in the empirical literature.

To research workaholism as a discursive construction rather than the predetermined,

yet controversial ‘thing’ pursued in other studies, there is valued to be had in exploring the

insights alternative methodologies may provide. Qualitative methods are ideally suited to

tap the naturalistic, everyday language through which this form of behaviour is

constructed in social interaction. Thus, we pose the following question in an attempt

to address this vacuum: How do people account for the origin of their working patterns?


We position our study within the philosophical orientation of social constructionism

(Neimeyer, 1993), emphasizing the subjective experiences of actors’ ‘lifeworlds’

238 Melrona Kirrane et al.



(Husserl, 1969; Schutz, 1972). Paying close attention to the language used, we apply

discourse analysis techniques to our data (Antaki, 1994; Billig, 1997; Harvey, Turnquist, &

Agostinelli, 1988), looking beyond the surface of the sentence to identify the pragmatic

social functions that the utterance achieves (Silverman, 2001). We present the data in raw form to accommodate an expansive interpretation of the participants’ perspectives

(Johnson & Waterfield, 2004; Wimpenny & Gass, 2000).


Two sampling techniques were used in this study. In the first instance, we deployed a

theory-based sampling process, targeting a sample on the basis of their potential

manifestation of our theoretical construct. For this purpose, we concentrated on members of Workaholics Anonymous (WA), which is a social network specifically

targeted at self-selected workaholics.

The global WA headquarters (based in the United States) agreed to email details about

the study to its members, and a notice requesting participants for the project was placed in

the WA monthly newsletter. To achieve generalizability (Mason, 2010), we also used a

purposive sampling strategy which involves using prior research and informed ‘hunches’

to identify the segments of the population likely to hold a unique perspective on the

research topic and directly recruiting from these groups (Bauer & Aarts, 2000). Certain occupational fields, such as financial services, are known for their demanding workloads

(European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions, [EFILWC],

2015). To recruit participants for our study, 110 companies were contacted from the

database of an International Financial Services Centre. Human resource specialists of 72

companies (65%) agreed to disseminate to their employees an invitation from the

researchers to participate in a study on work patterns. Due to this recruitment strategy, it

was impossible to calculate the response rate, as the number of people who received our

invitation was unknown. However, our aim was not to attain a statistically representative dataset but to provide an in-depth account of the range of ideas present and examine what

underlies and justifies them (Gaskell, 2000; Patton, 2002).


Machlowitz’s (1980) measure of working patterns was administered via email in the

invitation to participate in the study. The intent of this element of the research process

was not to reify these individuals as ‘workaholics’, but to purposively select people who indicated that they exemplify characteristics of the construct of ‘workaholism’.

There are 10 items in this measure; a sample item is ‘Do you dread retirement?’

Deployed in a number of studies (Doerfler & Kammer, 1986; Greenberg, 2002; Kilburg,

Nathan, & Thoreson, 1986), with items derived from empirical work rather than a

priori theoretical assumptions, each behaviourally based item on this measure has a

‘yes/no’ response option whereby ‘yes’ responses warrant one point, and ‘no’

responses warrant zero points. A score above eight points is deemed to represent

workaholic behaviour (Machlowitz, 1980). A total of 146 people responded to the questionnaire, 22 (15%) of whom were identified as workaholics by meeting the cut-off

point established by Machlowitz (1980). This figure is within the range of international

norms regarding the prevalence of workaholism (Doerfler & Kammer, 1986; Freimuth,

Waddell, Stannard, Kelley, & Kipper, 2008; Sussman, 2012). Respondents who agreed

and were available to be interviewed about their work patterns formed this subsample

The origins of excessive work behaviour 239



of the study. In order to fully understand the particular conceptions of the origins of

excessive working, a comparative sample was generated by interviewing willing

respondents who did not meet the criteria for ‘workaholism’ according to Machlowitz

(1980). This afforded the opportunity for the research question to be richly explored and extensively examined according to the tenets of SCT. The sum of the research

strategies deployed ensured ontological integration of the nature of social life was

achieved (Guarino, 1997).


The sample ultimately consisted of twelve workaholics, four of whom were WA members,

and sixteen comparison group members. This sample size is acceptable for discourse analytic studies and is well within the ranges identified by Charmaz (2006), Bertaux

(1981), Morse (2000) and Mason (2010). Of the workaholic sample, three were female

(two members of WA and one general population workaholics [GPW]) and the sample

was aged between 32 and 57 years with an average age of 46 years. Ten of this sample

were married/partnered and job titles included management consultant (5), investment

banker (3), IT consultant (2), journalist (1), and medical doctor (1). Of the comparison

group, five were female and the average age was 47 years. Eleven of this group were

married/partnered, three were divorced, and two were single. Job titles included management consultant (11), financial services/banking (3), and IT consultant (2).


Semi-structured interviews were conducted with each participant (See Appendix). The

interview began with appropriate ‘warm-up’ questions (Arksey & Knight, 1999) and then

proceeded to explore participants’ conceptions on the evolution of their working lives

with the question: ‘What do you think has influenced your work pattern?’ The interview schedule was employed flexibly to facilitate responsiveness to discursive pathways

introduced by the participant (Gaskell, 2000) and to accommodate issues pertinent to

participants (Gioia, Corley, & Hamilton, 2013).

The researcher did not use the word ‘workaholic’ at any point in the process, and the

neutrality criterion (Guba & Lincoln, 1982) was met by the researcher being aware of, and

critical of vocalizations in the research process. Interviews took place either in private

offices at the participants’ workplaces or nearby convenient spaces and lasted between 60

and 90 min. As WA members were all based in the United States, interviews were conducted with them by telephone. Interviews were recorded and transcribed verbatim

(O’Connell & Kowal, 1995; Potter & Wetherell, 1987). Each hour of interview data took

approximately ten hours to transcribe.

Data analysis

The analysis followed the discursive action model (Edwards & Potter, 1992), and the

interpretative strategy was informed by the three major foundations of discourse analysis, namely construction, function, and variability (Potter & Wetherell, 1987). A battery of

discursive features was compiled to aid analysis (Edwards & Potter, 1992; Gee, 1999;

Wetherell, Taylor, & Yates, 2001). Following Guest, Bunce, and Johnson (2006), two

coders separately analysed the data from five interviews. Coding patterns were compared

and a 96% code agreement rating was established (Armstrong, Gosling, Weinman, &

240 Melrona Kirrane et al.



Marteau, 1997). A codebook was then developed using a standard iterative process

(MacQueen, McLellan, Kay, & Milstein, 1998). Codes were refined while reading the

remaining transcripts to accommodate emerging patterns and finally inputted into the

Nvivo software program to facilitate analysis. The analysis met the criteria of trustwor- thiness (Bowen, 2009; Guba & Lincoln, 1982) by ensuring data credibility, transferability,

dependability, and confirmability using the audit trail, coding checks, and peer debriefing.

Trustworthiness was further reinforced by ensuring all interpretations were supported by

raw data and accompanied by representative verbatim extracts (Speer & Potter, 2000).

The criterion of soundness (Potter & Wetherell, 1987) was satisfied by our presentation of

analysed texts and demonstration of routes to conclusions. This documentation of

procedures enabled accountability to be examined and the confirmability of claims to be

established (Parker, 2002). In addition, only plausible and insightful analyses were included (Phillips & Hardy, 2002) and it was ensured that all arguments fitted together in

order to provide a coherent reading of the data (Wood & Kroger, 2000). The study thereby

fulfilled the warranting criteria for discourse analysis research (Antaki, Billig, Edwards, &

Potter, 2003; Edwards, 2005).


The data are presented according to the major rift in workaholism literature,

focussing first on the role of internal/dispositional factors, followed by data on the

significance of socio-cultural factors. Findings are displayed according to subgroup

membership (Workaholics [WA members and general population workaholics

{GPW}] and comparison group members (C)). The table below presents a summary of the findings (Table 1).


a) Internal/dispositional antecedents of excessive work patterns


Uniform explanations of the internal causes of excessive working by workaholics were

absent from the data. Instead, accounts fell into three primary categories: addiction,

personal choice, and the influence of personal characteristics. WA members invoked

addiction as its primary cause, whereas personal agency was the strongest factor reported

in the data of GPW.


i Addiction: WA1 explained her working patterns as a consequence of the hormone

adrenaline, which was defined as an addictive substance:

I am an adrenaline junkie, basically is what I am [WA1]

WA1 constructed a fundamental self-identity as an addict (or in slang terms, ‘junkie’).

This construal of workaholism as an addiction positioned the problem completely within

the self. The label of being an addict was applied without any more detailed construals of

addictive behaviours, symptoms, or signs. Another WA member spoke of his work

patterns using the register of addiction by explicitly comparing work to drugs:

The origins of excessive work behaviour 241



I had what in the programme we call “my stash”. Some people have a stash of drugs, I had a

stash of projects and activities that were never-ending [WA3]

ii Choice: On the other hand, GPW constructed their working style as an active,

volitional choice, and regarded their chosen lifestyle in positive terms. For example,

GPW3 stated:

I like being able to get up at six o’clock in the morning and being able to put in a Fourteen-hour

day [GPW3]

For GPW2, working long hours was positioned as a strategic move rather than an addictive force. It was not a reward in itself but directed at future benefits, which were

assembled in monetary terms.

I never sacrifice things and invest myself in something unless there’s a pay off or

compensation for it somewhere down the road [GPW2]

iii Trait/disposition: Perfectionism was constructed as a driver of behaviour among

workaholics although the emphasis attributed to it differed between participants from

WA and those from the GPW subgroup. For instance, WA4 stated:

There’s this whole pattern I call “the three P’s”. It’s perfectionism, which leads to paralysis

which leads to procrastination. So perfectionism drives a lot of things. [WA4]

Assembling this chain reaction of events as a ‘pattern’ established it as a general law of

behaviour. This interviewee positioned himself in a powerless stance in relation to perfectionism, which was afforded agency by installing it as the grammatical subject (e.g.,

‘perfectionism drives’). Perfectionism was also compiled as a behavioural factor among


However, it was discussed in less absolute terms:

I’m a bit of a perfectionist. Other people here say that I am one but I don’t know if it is true.

Once I’m satisfied, and once it’s good enough for me, then I’ll move on to the next thing. But

there’s a certain point at which too much perfection gets in your way [GPW8]

This participant stated that others classified him as a perfectionist but that he did not

fully identify with this characterization. He equated perfectionism with an inefficient

Table 1. Summary of findings


mechanisms of

work behaviour Workaholics Comparison group

Internal factors 1. Addiction (WA)

2. Perfectionism (WA)

3. Personal choice (GPW)

4. Perfection strivings (GPW)

1. Personal maturation

2. Boundary management

3. Value-driven choice



5. Stressful family of origin dynamics

6. Intenseeducational norms

7. Pervasive organizational norms

8. National culture

1. Proactive adjustment

2. Supportive family of origin

3. Created family

4. Constructive educational experience

5. Alternating work norms

242 Melrona Kirrane et al.



inability to ‘move on’. While he demanded high standards, he claimed that his ability to

reach satisfaction with a completed task made him, at most, ‘a bit of’ a perfectionist.

b) Socio-cultural attributions for work patterns


A rich body of socio-cultural data emerged pertaining to the influence of family

background, educational history, organizational/work context, and cultural context on

work behaviours. These elements speak strongly to the role of environmental factors in

encouraging the development of certain work behaviours.


i Family background: No reference was made to the role of created family in the

development of excessive work patterns – family of origin was invoked instead. For example:

So even from an early age I was working. My father was a holy terror for work, work, work,

work. He’d kick me out of bed at seven o’clock on a Saturday morning – that was the way I was

brought up. I would always have worked [GPW7]

This participant presented himselfas working demanding hours from an early age. This

was positioned as not due to his own nature or personality, but rather due to his father’s

influence. The participant presented himself as agentless in determining the amount of

work he did as a child by employing verbs that situate him in a passive position. Being

‘kicked out of bed’ established his father’s control over his activity. His father’s work ethic

was couched in negative terms, and the home context was cast as creating his lifelong working behaviour through the extreme case formulation ‘I would always have worked’.

An inevitability of the development of excessive behaviour emerged in the data from WA3:

Both my parents are nicotine and coffee addicts. I just grew up in a very disturbed home. My

mom has got a lot of issues like anxiety and my dad’s a little more on the control side of things.

So between the two of them, it’s like I’m constitutionally wired for addiction. [WA3]

WA3 used the ‘addict’ term to categorize his parents. This categorization was

construed as a statement of fact through the lack of hedging. The modifier ‘just’ was

employed to simplify the construction of his family context as disorderly. Terms such as

‘issues’ and ‘anxiety’ established his mother as psychologically unstable and built up this

extract as a legitimate fact.

As a result, he regarded himself as being inevitably addictive in his behaviour thus

legitimizing his construction of his work addiction as being created in the family home.

WA1 explained her work behaviours as developing in childhood in response to the low-status position she believed she held within her family unit:

Both us girls – it was perfectly clear that we were second rate. I was called the runt of the litter,

the cowardly one, and my way out of that was that I was clever and I did well at school. That

was the one area where I got some approval from my father. [WA1]

This participant linked her current work orientations to her childhood desire to escape from paternal taunting and her humble familial status. The clarity of her standing within

the family was built up through the use of the adjective ‘perfectly’. Thus, trying to gain

The origins of excessive work behaviour 243



approval from the family context was positioned as causing her to develop excessive work