Do you have a silent killer roaming around your office? If you said no, you might just be fooling yourself. Boredom is increasingly prevalent in today’s modern workplace. As you read this, it’s creeping around the cubicles of some of your best employees, ready to kill their motivation and morale.
According to Curt W. Coffman, global practice leader at the Gallup Organization nearly 55 percent of all US employees are not engaged at work. Still think workplace boredom isn’t a problem at your company?
If you persist in ignoring the specter of boredom holding your best employees hostage (or at least convincing them to spend an undue amount of time playing Farmville) a recent study might change your mind. It turns out boredom is the second most commonly hidden workplace emotion after anger. According to senior psychology lecturer at the University of Central Lancashire in England and study author Sandi Mann, modern workplaces are only getting more boring.
“So what?” you may be asking yourself. “So some of my employees spend time playing Angry Birds instead of working on a project. Things are still getting done.” Sure, your company hasn’t come to a screeching halt, but boredom is compromising the productivity of your workers.
It also could be compromising their health. Boredom is just as stressful as stress, but while it’s impossible to turn a corner in the business world without hitting a stress management course, there’s nothing addressing the pressures of boredom. Most companies would like to pretend that boredom doesn’t exist, but that doesn’t make it go away. Instead it becomes invisible and taboo, a subject workers can’t bring up with bosses but which weighs down their ability to do their jobs.
Still not convinced? Well here are some more hard facts for you. A study by researchers at Montclair State University and the University of South Florida found six counterproductive behaviors that trace their roots back to boredom. The following are the behaviors harmful to an organization that boredom gives birth to: abusing coworkers, purposely failing at tasks, sabotage, withdrawal, theft, and horseplay. Certainly doesn’t sound like the ideal employee! Plus you know what they say, one bad apple ruins the bunch. Like a virus, dissatisfaction can quickly take hold in your workforce, driving down morale and engagement.
Office drones aren’t the only ones who suffer from the debilitating effects of boredom. Even some of the most high-stress career paths are vulnerable. Just ask Mark de Rond from the University of Cambridge’s Judge Business School, who spent six weeks at Camp Bastion in Afghanistan studying military surgeons. What he found was when conditions were truly life-or-death the surgeons worked at optimal levels, like a well-oiled machine. When things got slow, however, bored surgeons became unruly, disruptive, and hard to handle.
Now you might be asking yourself “if even wartime surgeons suffer the effects of boredom, what can I possibly do for my office?” First, understand the root causes of your workplace boredom epidemic. There are many reasons why employees check out mentally. These can range from employees not meshing well with their jobs, to workers feeling underutilized, to just needing more room to grow their talents.
As people increasingly seek fulfillment in their career paths over pay or other perks, boredom becomes a problem for finding and retaining the best talent. No one wants to rehire the same position endlessly, but today’s modern worker is looking for more than the paycheck their parents or grandparents may have been happy to work for.
What are the solutions to finding this silent killer before it strikes your workplace again? You need to find a way to make employees care about their work. When employees care, they’re engaged and less likely to be bored. When the wartime surgeons were in the middle of a medical emergency, they had no time to be angry at their work conditions. Instead they worked together as a team to accomplish a task bigger than themselves.
Your company doesn’t need to get to life or death levels to get employees motivated though. Perhaps just make sure workers know the value of their tasks and how their contributions add to the organization’s overall goals. Instead of just being work, now employees know their responsibilities are essential to the company’s success. Make sure employees feel comfortable asking questions and bringing up concerns. If workers feel their voices are being heard, they’ll be less likely to feel undervalued.
Don’t let boredom sneak up and kill your employee’s productivity and morale. Ignoring the problem won’t work. Address that dangerous boredom head on and you’ll have more engaged and motivated workers.
What are some ways you combat employee boredom? Share them with us!