Do you find yourself staring blankly at your computer screen all day? Do you spend your afternoons sending messages to friends on the Internet? Does your job give you no satisfaction at all?
If so, you could be suffering not from burnout but from boreout, which fast is becoming the new office epidemic. "Boreout! Overcoming Workplace Demotivation" by Philippe Rothlin and Peter Werder explores the causes of demotivation in the workplace—including boredom, disinterest in the job, and the absence of a stimulating challenge. Boreout has become widespread in offices around the world, but the problem only now is being recognized by employers.
In "Boreout," the authors bring to light this growing problem and show employees and employers how to recognize boreout and avoid its consequences. Whether you are an employee suffering from this draining condition or an employer desperate to save your staff from the boreout trap, this book can help.
Below is "The Wrong Career Choice (1 Cause)," the first of four excerpts from "Boreout" that will be posted. Subsequent excerpts will include:
- We Seek Meaning (1 Solution)
- The World of Work in the 21st Century—From Burnout to Boreout
- When People Suffer Inwardly From Boreout
The Wrong Career Choice (1 Cause)
All children have career dreams—they want to be firemen, nurses or footballers. They pick their dream job purely on the basis of feeling, for they cannot yet judge what the conditions of employment, career opportunities or earning potential are, or what the day’s work really looks like. When they are older and consider their future career in concrete terms, they begin to think over education and job descriptions in their mind. The reasons that affect a career choice can be of decisive importance in identifying causes of boreout. For this is where the first switches are set. When someone decides on a particular career, the chances of boreout occurring are already growing or shrinking.
Have you seen the film, The Incredibles? It is the story of a superhero family with extra-sensory powers. However, these are precisely the abilities they may not use; instead they have to integrate into everyday work as a "normal" family—which, of course, backfires. The prime example is Mr. Incredible. Horribly bored, he has to handle his clients' insurance cases. And, at least at the beginning of the film, he can no longer do what he actually wants to do, which is to act as a superhero. Many employees today are in the same situation as Mr. Incredible: caught in a sense that they have no commitment to what they do or have to do. But why is this so?
People often choose careers very different from the ones they would actually like to follow. They choose the wrong options, and their problems grow from that point onward. Let us imagine two scenarios:
- Imagine parents who push their daughter to study for a law degree, because they want her to enjoy as broad an education as possible and subsequently have many options. Now, the young woman has a talent for painting and would much prefer to go to an art college, but the parents insist that she can still do this once she has taken a degree.
- A school leaver takes an apprenticeship in a construction company, because the parents think their son should learn something "respectable." In so doing, they take responsibility for deciding their son’s future, since at the moment he cares for nothing but computer games, parties and having a good time—and has no idea of the seriousness of life. The construction industry not only offers secure employment but is also seen as a worthwhile industrial sector, and the parents expect it will cause the boy to take a more serious attitude to daily life. Besides, young people of this age don't know what might really interest them. They don't really care at this point in time anyway; the main problem is to get them to make any kind of decision at all.
Both decisions could lay the foundations of boreout. The choice of a specific career is often made on the basis of some criterion that seems more important than interest in the work. Examples are (supposed) job security, the prospect of a career, or a higher salary than you could get in the field you would actually like to work in. Do not misunderstand us—we are not arguing for modest incomes and austerity, but we are pleading for a balance: Most people need both material and immaterial fulfillment, both money and meaning. This is not an either/or. But people who decide in favor of a degree or a career path that actually does not interest them at all run the risk of sooner or later suffering from boreout.
As suggested above, parents can influence their children's choice of career. There is also pressure from social standards and expectations. If such pressures lead people to choose the wrong course, boredom, under-stretching and lack of commitment are the likely results. And then it becomes more and more difficult to find a way out of the boreout mess. Perhaps our law student will work in chambers later. And she will suffer from boreout because the law does not interest her and because she finds the work tedious. She would find fulfillment in artistic activity, but she might lack the courage to change; the material penalties would be too great.
Philippe Rothlin studied law and business administration at the University of St. Gallen and holds an MBA from ESADE Business School. He has been working as a project manager in the banking sector for many years. He is co-founder of advertising agency Gruetzi, headquartered in Barcelona, Spain, and works as a business strategy consultant.
Peter Werder studied journalism, philosophy, and musicology at the University of Zurich, and he has a Ph.D. in philosophy. He has been working as a journalist and public relations consultant for many years. He is now in charge of the communications department of a major company in Switzerland.