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Workaholics Need Recovery, Too! - Employee well-being in hospitality organizations

By Susan Gordon

Employee well-being is of concern to hospitality organizations, especially as they strive to retain employees at all levels and promote work-life balance. However, hospitality is also known for long hours, unstable work schedules, high job demands, and work-life conflict, all of which can negatively impact employee well-being and increase health-related costs for organizations. One of the ways employees can cope with these demands is through recovery, whether it be short-term such as breaks or a day off or long-term such as multiple days off or vacations. Recovery experiences such as mentally detaching from work, relaxation, or mastering a hobby can help employees feel rejuvenated.

Much of hospitality research focuses on employees leaving managers ignored. However, retention of managers is key for organizations and especially those in the “sandwich” position between the line-level employees and senior managers who are responsible for guest issues, employee issues, financial management, and operation efficiencies on a daily basis. Hospitality organizations often prefer to retain managers for the long-run, so they should invest in managers achieving career success and job satisfaction and career satisfaction through ensuring they can recover from these daily work demands. The work environment in the hospitality industry can result in employees’ devotion to work branding them as workaholics, especially those who are in management roles.

Two aspects that lead to longer working hours are the nature of the work, such as the 24-7 demands of hospitality, and employees’ intrinsic motivations. Managers make up a higher percentage of workaholics than non-managers do, possibly due to managers having more responsibilities necessitating working during non-work time, such as answering work phone calls or doing administrative tasks at home. Despite people self-selecting into the hospitality industry and thus accepting the unstable working conditions, they still need recovery, especially as a way to ensure well-being and career success. Therefore, this study aimed to understand whether the relationships among recovery experience, well-being, and subjective career success fluctuate based on a manager’s workaholism tendency so that organizations can better help employees, especially managers, obtain recovery.

Recruiting from MTurk, my co-author and I collected data at two time points from 302 managers in the hotel, foodservice, airline, and tourism industries in the United States. Our results showed hospitality managers’ recovery experience has a positive relationship with well-being, current job satisfaction, and importantly, subjective career satisfaction. Among our hypotheses was that workaholism will moderate the recovery experience such that the relationship will be stronger for hospitality managers high (versus low) in workaholism. It was found that there was no difference in the levels of workaholism, suggesting that recovery is important for all managers’ well-being regardless of whether or not they are workaholics.

Interestingly, our findings showed that these two relationships were stronger for those higher in workaholism, which was the opposite of what we had hypothesized. This suggested to us that because people self-select into hospitality, they are prepared to work long hours and may not view workaholism as a negative. Thus, recovery could be even more vital to their career satisfaction in this industry.


  • Managers in the hospitality industry may be more apt to have a work hard play hard mentality and thus, self-select into an industry known for high volume and unstable hours.
  • Hospitality managers’ recovery experience has a positive relationship with well-being and subjective career success.
  • The relationships between recovery experience and job satisfaction and career satisfaction was stronger for people who are high in workaholism.
  • Building time-off and recovery into schedules is important for work-life balance.
  • Addressing work-life balance is important for worker health and retention.

What does this mean for working well in the hospitality industry?

Organizations should ensure that recovery efforts are made for all employees to achieve optimal well-being given that recovery experience positively impacts well-being. They need to identify who their workaholics are and of these people, who thrives as a workaholic and who wishes to stop being a workaholic. Organizations can then flex their policies based on managers’ needs. For example, educating those who no longer wish to be workaholics on the negative effects offering stress recovery programs. Organizations should ensure that those who thrive as workaholics are not penalized or admonished for their ways and they should not try to force them to break their ways. Given that workaholics may not be as interested in detaching from their jobs in the short-term, some long-term detachment programs could prove to be more beneficial for career satisfaction such as taking a block of vacation across multiple weeks like a short sabbatical.

Original article: Gordon, S. E. (2021). The well-being and subjective career success of workaholics: An examination of hospitality managers’ recovery experience. International Journal of Hospitality Management, 93, 102804.

Susan Gordon is an associate professor at Purdue’s White Lodging-J.W. Marriott, Jr. School of Hospitality and Tourism Management whose research interests are employee well-being, supervisor support, and hospitality industry turnover.