Boredom in the office: anything but a luxury problem
Would you have thought that every week Monday in German offices is the greatest boredom? At least on this weekday, a particularly large number of googles for “nothing to do at work” or “boredom in the office” and land on my post, which I published here almost a year ago. Under no other article do so many readers comment on their experiences in such detail. The amazing thing is that many young professionals among them complain of boredom in their first jobs. The topic is relevant. Therefore, I am taking it up again today and hypothesizing that Boreout is even a phenomenon of the modern world of work. I venture a few attempts to explain the causes and show what is going on in the minds of many of those affected. Because one thing is clear: for the chronically bored, this is anything but a luxury problem.
Boredom in the office: the causes
Employees who complain of boredom in the office are neither lazy nor stupid. At least that’s my impression when I look at the comments here and when I work with Boreout sufferers in coaching. On the contrary: many of them are highly motivated, well trained, and reflective. They are stuck in jobs for which they are overqualified or they are trapped in systems that completely do not correspond to their own values and work ideas. But how can this even happen?
Management and leadership failure
Some employees tell me that their bosses no longer have time for them and are losing sight of them – I wrote about this here. If executives are only turning on their own hamster wheels or believe that modern leadership means letting the employees run as freely as possible like chickens in floor housing, then there is no more leadership. What heaven on earth is to independence-loving employees, hell is to others who need a controlling hand and firm guard rails for meaningful work.
Besides, the fact that personnel policy in the company is driven by permanent positions and the more status and power a manager experiences, the more heads he is allowed to manage, this is the ideal breeding ground for turning a blind eye when your own employees have nothing to do. Because whoever voluntarily shrinks his management span, is also sawing his power. This is the only way I can explain to myself that the bored are surprised that their employer has been feeding them for so long for fruitless idleness.
Stunted social skills, personal responsibility
It would be too easy to just pass the buck on the employer. There are two sides to a good working relationship. My perception is that many workers today lean back with the attitude “I’m not responsible for that!”. But from this attitude, it is not far to the poor, little victim who is doing so badly and who only looks to others to blame for the misery. Most of those who are bored at work that I experience are stuck in exactly this attitude, which not only robs them of an incredible amount of strength but also makes them believe that they have no chance of being able to change anything in their situation themselves.
My opinion: Personal responsibility as social competence, especially among young people, continues to be massively threatened with extinction the more school-based training and study become. Pupils and students do not learn early on to organize themselves and to take responsibility for their thoughts and actions and encounter the above-mentioned management failure or inefficient structures in the job, useless hanging around, and boredom due to a lack of awareness of alternative courses of action are the logical consequence.
Too high expectations of young professionals
In the last few weeks, I have wondered why so many young people comment under my post and complain about their suffering. Could it be that the “Generation Y Bachelor” starts as a top manager of tomorrow with the expectation to work on exciting projects on the spot and to jet around the world in international corporations?
But then the young managers suddenly spend hours at copiers, spend weeks stupidly creating PowerPoint slides for their bosses, or after a few months, they realize that work also means a lot of routines. Welcome to reality with antediluvian work processes and menial jobs for the newbies in some places. Can that be a reason? Felt boredom as a result of high expectations of career starters? – I would be very interested in your opinion.
Boredom victims keep looking wrong as applicants
A noticeable number of “boredom victims” report to me that they have already changed employers several times and are falling into the same “trap” over and over again. I see résumés with annual changes at the last stations. Yes, boredom seems to have a system here. Either because those affected always use the same misleading search mechanism as applicants or they always convey the same (incorrect) image of themselves with their application.
It’s strange: Anyone who has had bad experiences once knows what they no longer want and what to look out for with their next employer. This logic does not seem to apply to many boredoms. Because they are often not at all aware of what they need instead and how, when changing jobs, they recognize an employer who is better suited to them and who appreciates their skills and potential.
The symptoms: How bored people feel and how you can recognize a boreout
If I compare the behavior of burnout and boreout sufferers, then there are many parallels: Both of them pull themselves deeper and deeper into the problem through what they see as logical behavior. Both lose sight of their own body and their warning signals. As the condition progresses, both see fewer and fewer opportunities to change something. Both suffer from psychological and physical symptoms such as insomnia, nervousness, weight loss, and even depression. And for both, the private environment is often no help to get out of the stressful situation: Because the overwhelmed is sure that he is doing the right thing and the bored is ridiculed for his luxury problem.
Avoidance: Just don’t attract attention!
The strategies to avoid boredom in the office, such as deception or self-deception, were discussed in the article at the time. Every employee in permanent employment is afraid of losing his job. Employees do not go to their boss and complain about too little work over the long term. So hush up for the hell of it. Screens are rotated so that boss and colleagues cannot see private surfing. The simplest work is dragged out so much that it always gives the impression of being busy.
Don’t be noticed! This is the biggest drain on energy when bored in the office. A strategy for blind bosses or particularly socially-minded employers can save their own job and thus the secure salary for years, but which in the end only makes everything worse. Because each of you probably knows from your own, albeit brief, experience how exhausting doing nothing while being present at the same time can be.
Helplessness: I can’t do anything!
With increasing weakness as a result of avoidance and inaction, the feeling of helplessness increases. “I have nothing to do!” Becomes the irrevocable belief “I can’t do anything!” This attitude resonates in many of the comments under my first post. Those affected see themselves as victims of the circumstances and the system in which they are trapped. Not only that they have already tried everything, no, but they also do not have the spark of an idea of what they can contribute to positively changing the stressful situation. The result: perseverance, enduring increasing frustration, and hoping for improvement.
Frustration: Nobody takes me seriously!
In my experience, this is the biggest problem that chronically under-challenged people have in their job and that, in my opinion, is the reason that boreout is later recognized as burnout by and by those affected. While those who are stressed get signals from their environment that draw attention to too much work, those at risk of boreout are often ridiculed: “Be happy if you have nothing to do and get money for it – I am constantly stressed and even earn less than you! ”
Many clients shyly and scared ask me if they are plagued by a luxury problem. You notice that something is wrong, but at the same time, you get a reflection from those around you that your problem is not really one. And those who hear it often enough believe in it. But the physical and psychological symptoms speak a different language. Uncertainty about the right behavior and, as a consequence, withdrawal from the social environment are often the consequences, but they make the situation even worse.
The way-out: 8 steps against boredom in the office
Create clarity about your own values and goals
If you are looking for clarity about a solution, you first need clarity about yourself. What is important in your job and life and what of these is hurt or not fulfilled in your current job? What is it that burdens you so much with your current employer and what more do you wish for? This awareness is not only necessary to get out of the situation, but also to consciously make sure in the next step that these things are fulfilled as far as possible with the next employer.
Leave your victim role
As long as you wallow in self-pity and hold only your boss, colleagues, or society responsible for your situation, you will not accept a solution. Decide whether you really need this role as a victim of circumstances and whether this attitude is good for something, or whether you want to become the designer of your life yourself again, then with it …
Take on more personal responsibility again
You probably have to slowly learn to take responsibility again. Even if your boss is incompetent and does not lead you and even if you have ended up in a company that hoards too many jobs for too little work, you remain the boss of your life. In everyday life, pay attention to the situations in which you give up responsibility, because you are used to it and that is also very convenient, and when you can take on more responsibility yourself instead.
Your day-to-day work and your private life probably now consist of many routines and automatisms that are the result of boredom in the office. Try to deliberately interrupt such automatisms that served to conceal or distract from boredom. Each of these steps is an unfamiliar and supposedly dangerous step out of your habitual and comfort zone. See how it feels and see if it gets you further.
Recharge your batteries
What seems a bit esoteric is, from my experience, an extremely important key to success, especially with job changers and applicants. Any frustration – and with it also stressful boredom – gnaws at you. Looking for a job in this state or having a constructive conversation with the boss is usually not a good idea. Change small things and pay attention to what gives you new strength and energy in everyday life and at work and thus strengthens you for the future. Perhaps it is also a short break, which – if your finances allow it – is good preparation for the new.
Find solutions: stay or go?
For many bored people, one thing is certain: “I have to get out of there!” With their current employer, they no longer see any possibility of making such fundamental changes to enjoy their job again. Nevertheless, it is often worthwhile to consider this as well. Because the blinkers as a natural reaction to frustration have often become so big that many employees no longer have some sensible solutions in mind at the same employer.
Make consistent decisions
Decisions are part of changes. Many people who are frustrated and bored long long hope that others will make the decisions for them – for example in the form of termination. That too is relinquishing responsibility. So if you have found a path that seems sensible to you today, then make decisions after weighing the advantages and disadvantages as well as the consequences and go the way. And if you find way that this path is not leading you in the desired direction, you can make new decisions.
No, this is not the advertising block for coaching with me. If you have read this far, you may have noticed that many employees who complain of boredom in the office find it difficult to do it on their own find out the situation. Because your own environment is often not a good advisor either. Allow yourself to seek professional help as you go around in circles on your own.
As you can see from my first post a year ago and the response to it, but also from the abundance of articles on “Boreout” on the web today, it is not a luxury problem for a few under-challenged, but a relevant and therefore a serious topic in today’s working world. Don’t just accept chronic challenge and boredom at work. Even if it feels like a tepid job and easy money at the beginning, it can quickly lead to permanent frustration.
As an employee, sharpen your awareness that excessive demands not only mean stress, but that permanent under exertion can also make you sick. Friends and families of people who complain of boredom at work should take these warning signs seriously and consider together what options he or she has to change something about this condition and who can help with it. Because luxury problems are always a problem for those affected.