Tuesday, March 19, 2019
Are you Burned Out or Bored Out?

Are you Burned Out or Bored Out?

The classic notion of ‘burnout’ conjures up mental images of high-flying executives, working insane hours in stressful situations but being paid top dollar for doing it. However, researchers have discovered that exactly the same symptoms are just as prevalent in more mundane jobs and have named it ‘bore-out’.

Being ‘bored out’ was a term originally coined by Swiss business consultantsPhilippe Rothlin & Peter Werder in their book ‘Diagnose Bore-out’. Essentially being ‘bored out’ occurs when you are burdened with monotonous tasks on a daily basis. Alternatively, it can also be induced by simply having very little to do. The tedium of relentless routine, whether it be doing nothing at all or repetitive duties, gradually becomes too much to bear for the most individuals and they eventually begin to exhibit the same 3 tell tale signs of burnout:

  • physical and emotional exhaustion
  • cynicism and social detachment
  • feelings of ineffectiveness and lack of accomplishment

Interestingly being ‘bored out’ is often associated with people who can operate at a highly skilled level but are confronted with a job which offers minimal challenge, thereby resulting in ennui. So if you possess capabilities far beyond what your position entails then you are a prime candidate for ‘bore-out’.

Rothlin and Werder also point out that ‘bore-out’ sufferers are rarely cited as being lazy in the workplace. Paradoxically they have an overwhelming desire to convey the appearance of being busy and can often be observed staring intently at their computer screen whilst informing their colleagues that they are ‘super stacked out’.

Does any of this sound familiar? Do you think you might be a victim? As a quick litmus test, you can ask yourself 3 very simple questions:

1. Am I doing my job on automatic pilot?

2. Am I learning anything new?

3. Am I spending too much time on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter etc. 

If your response pattern is Yes / No / Yes then (although far from being a guaranteed prognosis) you may at least need to consider the possibility that you are headed for ‘bore-out’.

So is there any redemption? Well according to veteran psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi in his book ‘The Evolving Self’ thankfully there is. He posits that being either ‘burned out’ or ‘bored out’ can actually be the springboard for greater wellbeing through personal transformation…

“most novel ideas or behaviours are generated by people who try out new things because they are bored by old routines, or because they are confounded by chaos”

A recent article on Inc.com also offers some practical advice on how to beat the ‘bore out’. The main tenet of their argument is that if you allow yourself to stagnate then you will simply accelerate your discouragement. They advocate a focus on ‘relentless improvement’ by asking yourself 2 questions each and every day:

1. What is one thing that I want to improve tomorrow? And it’s vital that it is only one improvement as research proves that we are far less effective when we try to do too many things in conjunction

2. What one thing can I do that could help make the above improvement? Try to be as specific as you possibly can and make it an achievable process task that you can readily accomplish. Each tiny step forward puts you on the road to recovery.

A previous post of mine entitled Are YOU making yourself unhappy at work? covered similar territory and examines how there is very little you can do about life circumstances and absolutely nothing you can do about genetics but you can at least change your outlook on life.

So have you ever experienced being burned or bored out? And if you have, what exactly did you do to combat it?