Yawning boredom, the monotony of work, permanent challenge, and senseless service according to regulations. And this every day. What happened in 2007 after the book Diagnosis Boreout was still dubbed an absolute taboo breach, is no longer a sensational topic today. Burn-out and bore-out have received attention across all media in recent years. Boreout – a luxury topic, say the “real” stressed. Others believe that those affected are just lazy and to blame for their situation. Is Boreout still a topic at work today, when it is all about overtime, accessibility, and depression as a common illness due to excessive demands? From my perspective, it’s a topic, because astonishingly many of the coaching customers who are frustrated at work with the desire for change and reorientation are stuck in a bored trap – and can’t find their way out alone.
Boredom in the office: Much more than an empty desk
Boredom at work can have different backgrounds. The classic of the permanently empty desk is a picture that immediately came to my mind when I started thinking about this article. But boredom as a symptom has far more triggers. These come to my mind:
- Do nothing permanently
- Monotony of activities
- Intellectual challenge
- Senselessness of work
For office workers: the desk simply remains empty. There is simply no work. Or with sales staff: not a single customer gets lost in business, nobody calls.
Monotony – doing the same thing every day, nothing new for years. Monotony becomes routine at some point and actually gives us security in life, but it becomes a real pain in the long run.
The lack of intellectual challenge is the main cause of my clients looking for new direction. They would love to do a lot more than they are currently allowed to do. They feel restricted, underutilized and cannot appreciate their job – even if the good salary for doing nothing is in the account at the end of the month.
If the question of meaning is asked about the missing challenge, the daily commute to work quickly becomes the unmotivated service according to the regulations.
Where can you still find something like this today?
The problem of too much work is immediately obvious to all of us. Employers who cut staff to cut costs while expanding business. Or the boss, who still puts a little bit on top of it according to the motto “He can do it!”. But too little work? How does it work and where is something like that still available today?
Positions must be filled
At first, Boreout seemed to be primarily a system problem. The civil service was seen as the nucleus of boredom at work. That corresponds wonderfully to the image of the lazy and slow official. It is now clear that this is no longer just an issue for the authorities. Even in large corporations, there is yawning boredom in some offices. Jobs are planned, then they have to be filled. However, the digitization and automation of work has led to the fact that the work processes and framework conditions of work have changed fundamentally in part – keyword work 4.0 – but the structures have not yet adapted to them everywhere.
The more jobs in the budget, the more powerful I am as a manager. Yes, that is still the popular old way of thinking in the hierarchy. I know a lot of managers who would never voluntarily admit that their staffing levels are far too thick. Restructuring, redistribution or even the loss of tasks results in jobs (and employees) without economic justification. From a company perspective, it is anything but economical, but it is not so easy to see through and correct from above in many groups.
The boss bunkers or does it himself
I prefer to do it myself, then I know it will be good. Better to keep things with you than to delegate them to employees is a classic with perfectionist bosses.
The other case: The boss himself is so busy that he cannot pass on tasks. He piles up, but there is boredom under the bottleneck boss and everyone is waiting for another piece of work to fall off for them.
The third case: If there is a shortage of work in the entire system, then too few tasks are distributed among too many workers. A boss is then in the comfortable situation of fully utilizing himself, bunkering activities with himself and preventing his own boreout.
Stuff twice a year for a month, in between 5 months of slack. This is probably the worst form of boreout, because those affected regularly see how it can be different and they are challenged – often even more than healthy at this time – and then fall into a deep hole. From one day to the next from stress through too much work to total boredom. An alternating pool of requirements, which may seem pleasant in the first few years, but also quickly becomes a predictable boredom routine. If the employees need to have special know-how, it can make sense to keep these resources on a permanent basis instead of building them up and then dismantling them during the seasons.
Under-demand results from overqualification. Lawyers with a graduate degree who process files according to scheme F every day or plant managers with a degree in mechanical engineering. In almost every job advertisement, a degree is a prerequisite today. Where does that lead? Many underutilized people also tell me that they were promised exciting jobs in the interview, which in reality never existed in this job. These consequences of overqualification are not a problem for the individual employee, they are the result of incorrect recruiting and later inadequate personnel development processes.
No room for maneuver
“I can’t do anything,” I hear from many corporate bored people. You have no freedom in the form of decision-making and freedom of action in the job. Today, every employer wishes to have employees who think and act independently – at least that’s how it looks on the career pages. In the end, the employees are again 100% external and caught in work instructions, daily coordination rounds, meticulously defined processes and IT-supported, rigid work processes. In this way, errors in operational processes and undesirable developments due to unauthorized solo efforts are to be avoided.
Yes, there is also that: older employees in particular, who supposedly no longer meet the requirements of our changing world of work, are siding. Termination after 30 years of service is anti-social or costs too much money, so the elderly are literally immobilized. Transfer to the post office, to the archive or to any office at the end of the hall that is currently empty. The main thing is to go somewhere where you can’t go wrong and don’t interfere with operations.
Boredom at work: the most common consequences
It is often incomprehensible to outsiders how lasting boredom feels at work, how it affects it and what influence it can have on a person’s psyche. I do not want to go into the health consequences in the narrower sense here – I am not a doctor – I would rather consider those aspects that make it so difficult for those affected to change their situation.
Deception and self-deception
Many of those bored in the office pretend that they cannot save themselves from work. A logical survival strategy they adopted when the boredom started. They are afraid for their job. Because if you notice that they have nothing to do, then they are probably rid of him. So tasks are artificially drawn out and a look at the monitor simulates the intensive research, while they have just memorized the private Facebook timeline. Hiding doing nothing is also routine, but it costs a lot of energy and creates the greatest permanent stress during the boreout.
Permanent under-demand without intellectual challenges changes our thinking and acting. If you are not challenged, you dismantle. The ability to react flexibly to the unforeseen is also lost over time. Your own world is getting smaller. Stress within certain limits is good for us because we like being challenged and strive for further development and self-fulfillment. Anyone who stands still on the job for years no longer notices that they have actually actually been in reverse for a long time, mentally and often physically.
How should I behave as a victim? Tell the boss that I am bored and feel challenged? Yes, can you say that? What will he think of me? Don’t I have to be happy to have a job at all and shouldn’t I be happy not to have too much to do? Do I queue up and isn’t that a ridiculous luxury problem? Should I change my attitude to the job and can I continue to endure it? – Many questions that people with this job dissatisfaction ask and look for answers to.
With the lack of challenge and lack of success, self-confidence wanes. Anyone who bumbles in this way for some time will eventually ask: What can I do? How could I take this job? Did I study the wrong thing? Is it my fault that I am no longer assigned any tasks? Am I bad? It is logical that such thoughts come to the employees in particular on the siding described above – but I also experience these with younger employees who are dissatisfied with their current professional situation. All the experiences they have had in recent years and all training and degrees are suddenly no longer worth anything in their perception.
Passivity and victim attitude
All this leads to such a passive role that any change on your own initiative seems impossible. If you are not currently in this situation, you are probably familiar with friends or acquaintances who are wondering why they did not come out of the curd long ago. The strategy of “waiting and hoping for a redemption” becomes the only realistic alternative, because the awareness of the possibility of changing something in your own situation no longer exists in your mind.
Get out of boredom? That’s how it’s done!
What can you do to change your situation? Here I have put together some questions and perspectives for you that have so far proven useful in discussions with clients. Maybe there is something for you too – even if you are not suffering from constant boredom:
Create daily balance
Sometimes your own perception differs from reality. Create your own awareness of what you did (not) during the day. Analyze where tasks came from and how you did them. What gave you strength on that day and what robbed you of a lot of energy? What would you like to have done and who prevented you from doing it? What did you do yourself to look for interesting jobs?
Is change worth it at all?
What do you gain if you change something in your current situation? What do you expect from changing jobs, reorienting yourself professionally or changing something in private? Every change means abandoning something old (security?) And costs. Are you ready to bear these costs in the future and what do you hope to win in exchange for today’s boredom?
Is there anything good about boredom?
Anyone who is constantly under power has no clear head. For creatives, developers, and thinkers, boredom at work can also be good. Time to let your mind wander, to widen your eyes, and develop new ideas. Many inventions arose from boredom and routine. Make yourself aware of whether the times perceived as boredom can also be useful for your tasks because boredom makes you creative.
Rediscover existing strengths
This is probably the most difficult, but I think it is also the most important step. You have to get it out of this “I can’t do anything” and “I’m not worth anything” feeling. Look back at your training, the last jobs and also the current job. Take a look at your private life too. Is there anything you are proud of? What do you say, did you do in the past few years? Is there something that is going well right now? I’m sure you can think of something 🙂
Take responsibility and decide
In contrast to burnout, your body does not make you aware of the pressure to act in the case of boredom so clearly, or it takes longer for boredom at work to make us noticeably ill. You will have to take responsibility and make decisions yourself. Deciding doesn’t have to mean giving up the job right away. Rather, it is about the will and thus the motivation to actively take the change in hand.
Reactivate contacts with colleagues
With office sleep, social relationships also regularly fall asleep. Contact with colleagues is becoming less and less, because who wants to experience live what the dear colleagues have to do? And besides, if you walk through the corridors too often, you could hold up the sign that I am bored. The more you lose contact with your colleagues and retire to your snail shell, the more you become passive and the less chance there is of being integrated into work processes. So actively approach your colleagues again and offer your support.
Most of the bored people tell me “There is simply no more work there!” Then we analyze the activities and the current work environment together, often show opportunities – and I don’t mean those here. So go on the prowl! Keep your eyes and ears open and look for approaches to take on topics of interest to you.
Jobs are never set in stone! If you see an expansion of your competence and range of tasks as sensible, then make this suggestion to your boss. Find answers to the questions “What are we missing here?” Or “It would be good if we as a company had more … or more of …” Remove the blinders that have grown over time and rediscover your work. As an employee, you have more leeway than you think.
Most of the time private life also falls asleep with the job. Passivity in the office is transferred to family and friends. Due to sheer exhaustion and frustration from doing nothing, the strength for beauty in private is lacking. Try to become more active on both fronts and in private life ask yourself the question “What have I always wanted to do and what actually prevents me from doing it right now?” After all, you have enough time for that, don’t you?
The conversation with the boss
Does your boss know and see that you are dissatisfied with your job? If he or she is not one of the deliberate bunkers and also at risk of boreout and deliberately keeps you short, then a clarifying conversation can be useful. Perhaps your boss thinks he can’t put too much pressure on you and all of this is a big misunderstanding? If you have made the decision to actively change something in your situation, this also includes clarity in the boss-employee relationship.
Get out! Just where ..?
For clients who come to me, it often crystallizes in the course of the coaching that they leave their current employer and look for something new. The frustration and bad memories and feelings associated with this job and the employer are too great.
Once the decision has been made, it is about the next meaningful career steps and answers to the questions: What is a good time to leave, what is particularly important in the next job and with which employer I will be able to develop and develop better in accordance with my own goals and values. Where can I find the right positions and which application strategy is particularly promising? How can I sell my motivation to switch credibly without talking badly about my old employer and letting myself stand as a lazy sock?
Stopover time out?
Sometimes it is also a break of a few weeks or even months that boredom-conscious people indulge in. As with being overwhelmed, it can be helpful to recharge your batteries before the next professional step and gather yourself before you start something new.
Do you know colleagues or friends who have boredom in their jobs or made them quit? Or are you perhaps yourself affected and would like to change something? Share your experience in the comments below or send me an email – I am interested in your (certainly not boring) story.
(Cover picture: 123rf.com, 33105143 , bowie15)
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