27 September 2023

When work becomes a ‘mountain of sameness’

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Boredom with your work can have severe consequences, but Melissa Lamson* says there are ways you can turn things around.

About two-and-a half years into a job he had previously been really excited about, my client, Nick found himself getting increasingly restless and bored.

He described his situation to me as a “mountain of sameness”, and said he was beginning to dread going to work.

Margaret, someone at the mid-point of her career, was slowly dying on the vine — of boredom.

She came to me for help identifying what had gone wrong with her career, desperate to find a way out of the stultifying daily sameness of her job.

Boredom at work is a real problem for business today.

According to a survey published in January by the Korn Ferry Institute, the leading reason respondents reported looking for a new job was that they were bored with the job they currently held.

Participants in an OfficeTeam study reported feeling bored for at least 10.5 hours per week.

Employee boredom, labelled bore-out, is a growing workplace trend and is seen as a psychological disorder that can lead to burnout and illness.

According to co-authors of Diagnose Boreout, Peter Werder and Philippe Rothlin, early symptoms of bore-out include demotivation, anxiety and sadness.

In the long term, they state, burnout will develop, generating a strong feeling of self-deprecation, which can turn into depression, and even physical illness.

According to a study published by Udemy, 43 per cent of workers report feeling bored at work.

The research found that more women than men report workplace boredom (48 per cent vs. 39 per cent) and Millennials are almost two times as likely to be bored.

Some 51 per cent of respondents who described issues with boredom stated they feel this way for more than half of their work week.

As psychologist, Steve Savels describes it: “You become irritated, cynical and you feel worthless.

“Although you don’t have enough to do — or what you have to do is not stimulating you enough, you get extremely stressed.

“With a bore-out, you get stuck in your comfort zone for too long, until your personal development comes to a halt.”

Employees can begin to stretch tasks out for longer and more extended periods of time to appear busy and engaged.

They start to do just what is required and nothing more. They come in late to work, leave early and call in sick more often than their counterparts.

Their attitude can begin to impact the rest of the team.

Research reveals that bored workers are more than twice as likely to quit than their non-bored co-workers.

Among the things I tell clients who come to me with concerns about boredom at work is that you don’t have to leave your current job to fix the problem.

You really can turn bore-out around if you’re willing to work at it, take the right steps and reach out to others in your organisation and network.

Here are some tips to help turn a tedious job into something that has challenge and meaning.

Ask yourself what exactly bores you about your current situation and what kinds of new responsibilities would seem appealing.

Meet with your manager and ask for new challenges. Ask for a career counselling and brainstorming session to come up with ideas for moving forward.

Increase your networking, inside and outside of your organisation.

Take the time to get to know new people and ask them about their jobs and what they find interesting or exciting.

Get involved in volunteer projects within your organisation.

Ask to be included in a corporate social responsibility project and work to get to know the other people involved.

Check into job shadowing. You may be able to shadow someone from an entirely different part of the organisation and learn something utterly unrelated to your current job.

See if you can take part in one of your organisation’s fellowship programs.

Some organisations offer short-term fellowship programs that last three to six months and may take place in other parts of the country or even offices abroad.

Work on increasing your visibility within the organisation and in building your personal brand.

Work with a coach to uncover new ways to build meaning into your work, no matter where you are employed.

*Melissa Lamson is a leadership expert with experience in more than 40 countries. As President and Chief Executive of Lamson Consulting, she helps companies and business leaders cultivate a successful global mindset.

This article first appeared on the Inc.com website.

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