Researchers from the UK and USA have identified increasing levels of boredom in the workplace. Sandi Mann from the University of Lancashire, UK, points out that increasing levels of legislation often leads to increasing levels of bureaucracy which negatively impacts individuals who feel like ?Cogs in a Wheel?. Mark de Rond, University of Cambridge, UK, worked in Afghanistan for six weeks and observed the negative implications of boredom amongst medical teams treating war casualties. He pointed out the tremendous teamwork shown when treating casualties but when they were left without work they became bored, with time to reflect on the futility of war and the unrelenting trauma of the work. Paul Spector, University of Southern Florida says that some bored employees may have a greater tendency to sabotage workplace practices or deliberately fail at tasks. This potentially has a direct, immediate impact on organisational outcomes as well as emotional withdrawal, turnover, absenteeism, increased turnover and low morale of teams.
What is boredom?
Why are people bored when on the face of it there is so much to occupy everyone?s mind today? As a psychologist with over twenty years? experience, I believe that two factors contribute to boredom, which indicates what boredom is:
- The first is the lack of ability to be present, self-reflective and autonomous with our time and efforts. Today, we expect immediate gratification and when this doesn?t happen, we become frustrated, distract ourselves with things to do rather than ?sit with the moment? and wait patiently. Constant interruptions from others who can contact us twenty-four hours a day leads to further distraction and an inability to sit quietly and listen to ourselves and to what we might want to do and be.
- The second is the lack of meaning in what we do ? a sort of Existential angst that results from no intrinsic meaning in our work or activities. Despite being busy, we can still be bored if the meaning behind what we do is not linked to anything beyond ourselves which we value and believe and we feel we are not contributing to.
Workplace boredom is a serious issue, not only for the individuals whose boredom might develop into serious levels of anxiety or depression if not addressed, but on organisational performance and collective outcomes. Human beings need meaning and Generation Y in particular already ?walk with their feet? if meaning and quality of life is not present in their work.
Organisational leaders must create ways in which individuals can collaborate and use their creativity in order to contribute to something beyond themselves, or else boredom will cause far more problems than the need for a difficult conversation during performance management meetings.