Addictive disorders are among the most prevalent, costly and least intervened problems in the workplace today. To date, most studies in organizational psychology have focused on alcohol and drug abuse, neglecting the impact of behavioral addictions such as gambling, sex, and food.

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This paper reviews the empirical support for the prevalence of both substance and behavioral addictions, and elucidates consequences addiction can have in the workplace. Further, internet-based addictive disorders have only recently come on the radar screen of human resources managers.

All addictive behaviors have potentially damaging effects on job performance including loss of productivity and absenteeism. Addiction to technological tools may contribute to increased productivity and efficiency. Recommendation for effective work-based programs to detect and counter negative addictive behaviors.

There is no single accepted definition for addictive behavior or addictions in general. Fitzgerald (2003) defines addiction as the development of a dependent relationship between the addict and another person or thing. Addiction brings pleasure or offers relief from some kind of discomfort.

However these temporal effects usually have long-term negative effects on the addict. Among the signs of addiction are the loss of control in the use of or relationship with the object or person of addiction, compulsive behavior and deleterious consequences for the addict, and also often people with whom he/she relates or comes in contact. The addict usually persists with the addiction despite the obvious and evident negative consequences.

The dependence on the object or person is usually as a result of psychosocial and biological factors that predispose, facilitate or stimulate the addictive behavior. Ramp (2004) indicates that addiction is a disease of the brain. Waldhauser (2006) characterizes these addictions as a disease. He argues that addictive behaviors such as alcoholism are in fact chronic, degenerative diseases which have irreparable negative impact on the brain.

Fitzgerald (2003) indicates that addictions have traditionally tended to incorporate abnormal and excessive use and dependence on drugs, alcohol and other substances as the more prevalent addictions. Consequently other addictive behaviors that may cause the same level of discomfort and ill-effects as theseknown forms such as gambling, eating, exercise and sexual behaviors have not been given adequate attention.

Page 2 The effect of addictive behavior on job performance Essay

Recently addictive behaviors related to online use have also been gaining attention. Without a doubt these behaviors are not only irritating for the addict but are also costly and have deleterious health consequenceson the addict (Waldhauser, 2006).

Types of workplace addictive behaviors

As indicated above people are not only addicted to substances such as drugs, tobacco and alcohol. Addictions to gambling, sex and food can have significant consequences and, according to Fitzgerald (2003), pose a threat to the health of the workplace.


Considerable attention has been paid additions to illicit drugs in the general population. Research has consistently found that these drugs impair proper functioning and have a lasting impact on the addict’s brain functioning and ability to perform usual daily tasks, including workplace activities (Jones, Knutson & Haines, 2003). This problem affects people in all professions. In the field of nursing this workplace addiction is also common. Nurses have become addicted to the drugs they dispense to patients (Ramp, 2004).


The relationship between alcohol use and the workplace has been studied extensively. Stress in the workplace  may contribute to alcohol addiction problems as well as these problems may impact the work environment. Fitzgerald (2003) suggests that the workplace contributes to alcohol addiction when employees who have a low level of supervision and visibility at work, when there is access to alcohol on the job, where the social setting of the drop is conducive to drinking and where employees feel the need to drink as a result of the physical and psychosocial qualities of the workplace.


Marijuana is the most frequently used illicit drug and tobacco the most common legal drug. Smoking is probably one of the most common addictions performed in the workplace. Fitzgerald (2003) reports that employees smoked more than five cigarettes during breaks and 39% left in non-break time to smoke. Smoking also impacts all professions. In the military smoking is of grave as historically, the military uses tobacco more frequently and more heavily than civilians (Bray, 2003).


Fitzgerald (2003) reports on a study in which 60% of gamblers indicated that they had missed at least seven hours of work each week to gamble. Another 33% report that they have stolen from their employees in order to satisfy this addiction, some of them stealing over $5000 on average.

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