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Burned-out or bored-out? How to recognize your employees’ bore-out!

By Robin van der Meulen | 24/10/2019

Stressed-out employees.. who constantly feel tired and lifeless, put little energy into their work, react irritably or are even depressed. As management, HR or team leader you are probably familiar with the phenomenon of “burnout”.

Unfortunately, this is common in the workplace. But are you sure you are dealing with burnouts, or are your employees bored and should we speak of a “bore-out”? In this blog, we will help you to recognize a bore-out and spark the conversation with your employees, by offering you concrete tips and conversation starters.

Where a burn-out is often related to employees being too passionate and committed to their work, a bore-out occurs when employees lack a passion for their work.

What is bore-out?

The term “bore-out” is a relatively unknown phenomenon. It can be seen as a burnout caused by boredom. Burnout often occurs when employees, who are passionate and committed, work too hard without taking sufficient moments to relax and restOn the contrary, a bore-out occurs when employees lack a passion for their work. These employees feel structurally insufficiently challenged. 

The bore-out can occur due to:

  • being over-qualified for the job;
  • having to do a lot of repetitive work;
  • or simply having too few tasks to occupy yourself

Another negative contributor is when employees can no longer get satisfaction from their work. This sense of uselessness can be caused, for example, by the lack of social or personal added value of one’s work. Briefly summarized, there are two types of bore-out: bore-out due to (too) much work that is not satisfactory or purposeful, or bore-out due to too little work that is also too easy (Frouke Vermeulen, 2015).

Why is the bore-out so difficult to recognize?

A bore-out is caused by fundamentally different causes than a burn-out. The symptoms are only suspiciously similar. This makes it difficult to accurately and timely recognize your employees’ bore-out. Also, employees often do not understand why they feel that certain way. Or shame plays a significant role. “Can I feel tired or even depressed when all the work is done and handled easily?” As a result, they consult their manager or a counselor too late.

Another factor that plays a role is that nowadays “having no time” and “stress” has almost become the norm or symbolizes status: ” Boredom is not done. If you are bored, you are afraid of being seen as a profiteer, as someone who is lazy or who is not innovative enough, ” says stress and burnout coach Hilde Marien.

7.5% of employees have to deal with bore-out complaints

How big is the bore-out problem?

But how big is the problem of boredom at work? According to an American survey of 382 office workers and 307 senior executives, it appears that employees are bored 10.5 hours a week. Besides, 2 out of 5 employees indicate that they will quit their job if they were (structurally) bored (OfficeTeam, 2017).

According to research by the Flemish doctor and burn-out specialist Luc Swinnen, 7.5% of employees have to deal with bore-out complaints.

Another study by Call Center College and Lucent Technologies shows that 28% of all employees who leave a call center mention “boredom due to repetitive work” as the main reason for leaving.

The negative consequences at work 

Of course, employees understand that there may be times when there is little work or that doing boring, routine tasks can sometimes be part of the job. However, the negative effects of boredom should not be underestimated.

Too much boredom can result in:

  • poorer performance of employees (procrastination);
  • decreasing productivity (spending time checking social media and arranging private matters);
  • increasing absenteeism (due to tiredness, stress or lack of positive energy);
  • and a lower engagement (no longer interested in the work). 

Another essential reason why bore-out should be taken seriously is that it can happen to anyone, just like a burnout. We are simply subject to megatrends such as individualization, digitization and globalization. “The need for self-development, stimulation and autonomy among employees is growing, while our jobs are becoming more efficient, more uniform and more predictable.” (Sandi Mann, 2007).

For example, think of:

… the many graduates who cannot find a job matching their educational- and skill level;
… millennials who are intrinsically motivated to make (social, environmental) impact but cannot do so in their jobs;
… employees in the production industry who have to deal with automation;
… truck drivers who are bound by strict rules and routine work;
… or people in their fifties who can no longer grow and develop personally and professionally in their current job, but do not dare to give up because of the financially save position they are in

To get rid of a bore-out, it is important for employees to know what really motivates them and what makes them enthusiastic

What can you do in case of a bore-out?

Now that you know what the impact can be of having (too) bored employees, it is time for you as a manager to do something with this! The following conversation starters can help you discover whether a bore-out is likely to occur. Sit down with your employees and ask the following questions:

  • Do you feel challenged in your work?
  • Do you learn new things in your job?
  • Do you have your own responsibilities?
  • Do you feel the freedom to do your work the way you want?
  • Are you not often bored?
  • Is there enough work to do?
  • Do you find your work useful? 
  • Do you feel confident at work?
  • Do you think that time passes quickly in your work?
  • Do you dare to change jobs even if you earn less? 
  • Do you still feel energized after your working day (even if you have not had a busy day)?
  • Do you have interesting colleagues?

Are the above questions often answered with “no”? Then there is a reasonable chance that bore-out will occur among your employees. Follow one of the following tips to tackle and solve this together with the employee! 

1. Have the employee make a list of the tasks that he does not like or find boring, and a list of the tasks that helikes or thinksare useful. Are the listsin proportion? Are there non-fun tasks that another colleague does enjoy doing and can be exchanged with? Are there ways to outsource or reduce boring, unpleasant tasks?

2. Use a strength-based approach. Check with the employee what his talents are. Are there “forgotten” talents that are not currently being deployed or are being used well? Can strengths be utilized better in the current role, responsibilities and duties?

3. Ask the employee where he sees himself in a few years. What are the motivations of this employee? What does he want to achieve? To counter a bore-out, employees need to know what truly motivates them and what makes them enthusiastic. As a manager, you can prepare this interview by checking whether there are career opportunities for the employee, possibilities for more responsibilities or additional training to offer.

4. Be creative together. Sometimes certain routine or boring tasks are part of the job and the employee will have to accept this. Try to give the employee extra recognition, appreciation and encouragement when performing this kind of tasks or brainstorm how you can give these boring tasks a fun twist. For example, can you turn it into a competition with other colleagues?

5. Break the taboo, talk about it. Be open-minded and approachable. Indicate that you value it and that you believe it characterizes strong personality if an employee proactively states that he is bored. Take it seriously if this is indicated to you. Also inform the employee about their own responsibility of avoiding and beating boredom. Encourage employees to keep asking for more work. Is there really not enough work available? Then encourage the employee to turn to colleagues from another department. Maybe they can use extra hands and the employee will immediately learn new things!

Discover if your employees are bored or bored-out!

Do you suspect that bore-out is likely to arise in your team and do you want to prevent this? Then it is important to have regular insight into the mood of your employees; do they feel tired, bored or sad? With 2DAYSMOOD we have been able to help various organizations with these issues. By providing real-time insight into these bore-out-related moods, you can have a timely conversation about boredom or fatigue with your team, and thus keep employee engagement up to your standard! How does it work exactly? Request a free demo of our real-time measurement method and 15-second survey, and we’ll explain!

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