Boreout – How to escape the vicious cycle and fill the void

Being constantly bored is a vicious cycle that is really hard to escape. You need to fill a void. I managed it! Here is how…

20 years ago: I was bored…constantly…24h…365 days a year…many years…nothing excited me… I was moody…angry…depressed…I felt I had no purpose…my job suffered…my family suffered…my friends suffered… I suffered…

Today: I am still not 100% and only suffer occasionally from boreout…but I changed… I learn every day…I look for new experiences…I travelled…I lived and worked abroad… I feel I have a purpose…I am creative…I am happier…I have goals…I already achieved some of them…I am on track…

Boreout: Only recently I read about boreout. 100% match, I finally found a name for what I suffered from: “The boreout is the opposite of the burnout and consists of […]: being understretched, […], boredom, […] disinterest […] boreout is not the same as laziness. Employees who have a boreout are not lazy, but are made lazy”

So, what’s the problem? It seems to be wide-spread, some say every 8th employee suffers from it and it is at least as common as burnout.

There are consequences are observed on a personal level and at work. Lack of challenge or interest, being prevented from fulfilling their potential or receiving recognition leaves people with low level of self-esteem, fatigue, lack of sleep, feeling worthless. Being under-challenged leads to stress, which leads to burn-out, which can cause back pain, headaches, depression….you get the picture.

At the work place ambitions are destroyed. Low levels of loyalty and high levels of sick leave can be observed…not to mention the financial and efficiency impact of spending many hours per week perfecting the coping strategies like looking busy, stretching your work so it takes much longer than it normally would or showing pseudo commitment by staying late (but surfing the web) or eating at the desk.

It is a vicious cycle. People don’t talk to their bosses out of fear of losing their job.

Employee: “Hey boss, I am bored and under challenged.”

Boss: “Really? You are fired!”

Why does boreout happen?

Personally, I think it is a problem caused by managers [I am a manager myself and I am no better than anyone else so I am allowed to blame managers]: We

  • Fail to talk to people to find out what inspires them
  • Fail to ask people “what do you think”?
  • Fail to assign stretching and challenging tasks
  • Use boredom as mobbing or lay off tactic
  • Fail to remove organizational obstacles like demotivating performance management systems
  • Fail to offer career paths or personal development opportunities
  • Think it is too time consuming and exhausting to develop people
  • Fail to say “thank you, well done”
  • Fail to ask “what can I do to help you reach your potential”?

Who does a manager depend on to get work done? His team…

What happens if 4 team members spend 2h a day each doing nothing? You pay 4 but get 3

Who gets more work done? People with or without boreout?

Things get a bit complicated if manager and team suffer from boreout…

Here is what employees and managers can do

Basically, there are 2 ways: Treat medical symptoms and change the job/inner attitude. I am not a medical doctor and cannot help treat medical symptoms. So, the below list is about changing job and inner attitude. It is based on what worked for me…as employee and as manager…it may or may not work for others



Start by writing down what really excites you.

If you cannot think of anything, think back to what excited you in the past or think ahead what would excite you if there were no limits

Involve people. Talk to them often and ask lots of questions: What excites you? What do you think? How can we use your skills better? How can we use your potential better?
Start thinking how you import the above into your job Use the concept of “meaning, mastery, membership” to engage people
Follow James Altucher and write down 10 ideas a day…become an idea machine to reinvent yourself The brilliant series of “One minute manager” books has more practical advice on leadership and engagement than most leadership courses. This one is a good place to start.
If the job is a dead end, then read Tim Ferris’ resources to gain financial and mental independence Every single person in your team needs a different type of leadership: directing, coaching, mentoring, steering. Read up on the situational leadership model. There is no 1 approach fits all
If you have too much time at work, then use it to figure out what you really want Do “pulse surveys” to get feedback on how well a manager sets expectations, gives and receives feedback, and helps people with their growth and development (e.g. Adobe)
Once you set your goals, write them down every day. I learned from Harry Che why it is important and why it works Use frequent “check-ins”. Managers and direct reports have regular conversations about performance and other issues (Adobe)
Know your WHY. There are 9. Mine is “to make sense of complex stuff”. Once you know your WHY you will start transforming everything…

Watch “Ridgely Goldsborough Penang Full Speech”on or Vimeo. About 10min into the video he does a live demo how to find it out…

Develop a morning habit to condition yourself to be positive (like Pavlov’s dogs. Works for humans, too). My morning habit is this:

·         Say what I am grateful for

·         Laugh out loud for 15 seconds

·         Write down 10 ideas

·         Write down my goals


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