Boredom is something I wish fewer employees had to live with at work. Managers sometimes think that boredom is just the way a job is, and that employees should “suck it up.” I think there are better options.
For example, boredom can be related to the way we structure organizations. Unhealthy hierarchy keeps challenging tasks unnecessarily divided by level in the organization. Managers can easily (though falsely) perceive that it’s in their own interest to keep things that way. Actually, delegating challenging tasks (and the authority needed to execute them) can have enormous benefits to organizations.
Employees are more engaged if they have the challenge of managing their area of responsibility themselves.
The human mind fundamentally yearns to learn. Employees are more engaged if they have the challenge of managing their area of responsibility themselves. They’re also happier if they’re trusted. Being clear about this can give employees and managers insight into one way out of employee boredom.
Learning from the Challenge of Lack of Challenge
Below are some things employees can do if they’re bored at work (from the Making Work Better workshops).
Boredom is actually the challenge of lack of challenge. Make a practice of learning, even in a job that feels like it goes nowhere. This can make the job more interesting. We can find a “challenge and learning” outlook within ourselves. Some of the ways we can do this are:
- Practice learning how to interact and bring feedback to others in ways that get better results.
- Practice learning about yourself and how you respond (and why) to challenging or boring situations.
- Practice caring: about customers and others at work (there is lot’s we can learn here!); about the value of service and servant leadership; about what you might want to do if you moved forward in your career…. (Using seanwes overlap technique, your job could be the support you need to work towards that.) Focusing on where you need to go and ways to get there can make a tough situation seem more worthwhile.
- Constructively ponder ways the organization could be better – and what you might be able to do about that, or practice learning how to become better at doing something about that.
Paradoxically, doing these things can sometimes also help move you forward in your current job.
It’s Easier to Move Forward from Where You Are
There are often paradoxical situations in life where aiming for a goal directly, actually takes us in the opposite direction to it. An example is the way many of us are focused on ‘things’ to make us happy – which makes us more dependant and less able to be content with whatever we have.
In a job, we can often feel as if accepting the situation will mean being stuck there, and never moving forward. Accepting something doesn’t mean losing our power to change things. In fact, it’s just the opposite. Becoming more aware of reality gives us the power to be calm in it, clearer on what we need to make things better for ourselves, and more awake to what we need to do next to improve our situation. This is not necessarily easy. And that’s what makes it not a boring thing to practice while we’re at work.