You’re Not Burnt-Out. You’re Bored-Out.

photo-of-bored-man-youre-not-burnt-out-youre-bored-out

About two and a half years into a job he had previously been really excited about, my client Nick found himself getting increasingly restless and bored. He described his situation to me as a “mountain of sameness,” and said he was beginning to dread going to work.

Margaret, someone at the mid-point of her career, was slowly dying on the vine. Of what? Of boredom. She came to me for help identifying what had gone wrong with her career, desperate to find a way out of the stultifying daily sameness of her job.

Boredom at work is a real problem for business today. According to a survey published in January by the Korn Ferry Institute, the leading reason respondents reported looking for a new job was that they were bored with the job they currently hold. And, participants in an OfficeTeam study reported feeling bored for at least 10.5 hours per week.

Boredom at work can have severe consequences.

Employee boredom, labeled bore-out, is a growing workplace trend and is seen as a psychological disorder that can lead to burnout and illness, according to co-authors of the book, Diagnose Boreout, Peter Werder, and Philippe Rothlin. According to Werder and Rothlin, early symptoms of bore-out include demotivation, anxiety, and sadness. In the long term, they state, burnout will develop, generating a strong feeling of self-deprecation, which can turn into depression, and even physical illness.

According to a study published by Udemy, 43 percent of workers report feeling bored at work. The research found that more women than men report workplace boredom (48 percent vs. 39 percent) and Millennials are almost two times as likely to be bored. 51 percent of respondents who described issues with boredom stated they feel this way for more than half of their work week.

What are the symptoms of bore-out?

As Steve Savels describes it, you are left with little energy. “You become irritated, cynical and you feel worthless. Although you don’t have enough to do – or what you have to do is not stimulating you enough, you get extremely stressed, ” he states. “With a bore-out, you get stuck in your ‘comfort zone’ for too long, until your personal development comes to a halt. A burn-out happens when you stay for too long in your ‘effort zone’ until all your energy is gone.”

The consequences of bore-out can impact an entire organization.

Employees can begin to stretch tasks out for longer and more extended periods of time to appear busy and engaged. They start to do just what is required and nothing more. They come in late to work, leave early and call in sick more often than their counterparts. Moreover, their attitudes can begin to impact the rest of the team.

“A high incidence of boredom among segments of the workforce directly impacts performance, morale, and retention,” according to the Udemy research. “39 percent of surveyed employees called in sick to work due to boredom.” 51 percent of employees stated their coworkers regularly describe feelings of apathy or disengagement, which can spread among the workforce leading to low morale throughout the organization. And, as the research revealed, bored workers are more than twice as likely to quit than their non-bored co-workers.

Boredom is known as a leading indicator of disengagement.

“Not only can disengaged employees create a negative work environment but they can also cause a company to lose money,” writes Paul Slezak for RecruitLoop. “According to a Gallup poll, actively disengaged employees cause U.S. companies between $450 – $550 billion in lost productivity per year.”

What can you do?

Among the things I tell clients who come to me with concerns about boredom at work is that you don’t have to leave your current job to fix the problem. You really can turn bore-out around if you’re willing to work at it, take the right steps, and reach out to others in your company and network.

Here are eight tips to help turn a tedious job into something that has challenge and meaning:

  1. Ask yourself what exactly bores you about your current situation and what kinds of new responsibilities would seem appealing.
  2. Meet with your manager and ask for new challenges. Ask for a career counseling and brainstorming session to come up with ideas for moving forward.
  3. Increase your networking, inside and outside of your company. Take the time to get to know new people and ask them about their jobs and what they find interesting or exciting.
  4. Get involved in volunteer projects within your company. Ask to be included in a corporate social responsibility (CSR) project and work to get to know the other people involved.
  5. Check into job shadowing. You may be able to shadow someone from an entirely different part of the company and learn something utterly unrelated to your current job.
  6. See if you can take part in one of your organization’s fellowship programs. Some companies offer short-term fellowship programs that last three to six months and may take place in other parts of the country or even offices abroad.
  7. Work on increasing your visibility within the company and in building your personal brand.
  8. Work with a coach to uncover new ways to build meaning into your work, no matter where you are employed.

Do you need more help? Contact me. I help to grow leaders, empower teams, and bridge cultures by facilitating innovative learning programs. With over 20 years of experience in international leadership development, coaching, and team-building, I have helped countless individuals and organizations to be more equitable, productive, and happy.

A version of this post was first published on Inc.

Photo credit: julien-pier-belanger-499884-unsplash.com

12 Stress-Free Days of Christmas: The Secrets to Managing Stress at Work

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It’s the time of year–the time to feel stressed! But a little awareness can go a long way.

Why is it that what’s supposed to be the jolliest time of year is riddled with stress and deadlines–personal and professional? Gifts to buy. Casseroles to bake. Family to see. Reviews to make. Quotas to meet. Deals to close…

The to-do lists get looooonger this time of year as the time to tackle it gets much, much shorter. It’s no wonder a lot of us feel like we have more in common with the Grinch than Tiny Tim. (In fact, studies show 70 percent of professionals are more stressed this time of year).

But it doesn’t have to be that way. A little awareness can go a long way.

In the spirit of the 12 days of Christmas, here are 12 unique ways to keep stress at bay this holiday season.

Sleep.

If there’s only one thing you can do to manage stress—it’s sleep. If you aren’t well rested, everything else is likely to go haywire–your mood, your diet, your exercise, your work quality.

So, prioritize it.

Don’t stay up late wrapping gifts for your co-workers. People would much rather have a happy, healthy officemate than a grump with a beautifully wrapped candle in hand.

Forgo that second cookie.

Sure, sweets are a part of the season. But there’s something you need to remember–sugar can be your enemy.

There’s really nothing good about sugar except for the taste. It’s bad for your body. It can wreak havoc on your sleep. And, it can even cause depression. Oh, and it’s addictive, too.

If you have too much sugar in a day, you’ll have a high and then crash–leaving you little energy to accomplish anything and causing your stress levels to sky rocket.

So, when you find yourself reaching for another frosted reindeer, go for a walk and wait until that dopamine level drops.

Match water with cocktails.

While on the topic of the evil of sugar, it’s worth mentioning that alcohol has sugar in it.

Too many cocktails can not only lead to bad decisions, but it can mess with your sleep and cause anxiety, stress, and depression.

While at the holiday party, think before you drink–and, drink water in between each cocktail. This will help fill you up and cushion the blow of a potential hangover.

Get moving.

Yes, you have a lot to get done. But news flash, taking time to exercise may actually energize you to get more accomplished.

If you must go shopping during your lunch break, take the full hour and walk some laps around the mall, or take a few flights of stairs each time you need to hit the restroom.

Work in a little movement in here and there, and feel some big spikes in your energy level.

Create white space.

Jeff Weiner, the CEO of LinkedIn, wrote a really great blog post on the importance of scheduling nothing. “Use that buffer time to think big, catch up on the latest industry news, get out from under that pile of unread emails, or just take a walk,” he said.

Creating white space on your calendar for yourself is a way to seize your day back, rather than let it be beholden to to-do lists, emails, and phone calls.

This time of year, use that time to reflect on the past and what you’d like to accomplish in 2018. This will help you prepare for those end-of-year performance reviews lurking around the corner.

Resist the frenzy.

People are in a rush more this time of year than ever. The hot topic of conversation is how everyone doesn’t have time to have a conversation because they are so busy.

Don’t buy the hype. Buck it. Slow down and prioritize. Look at everything you have to get done and aim to get rid of 20 percent of it by delegating, pushing it off to next year, or simply not doing it at all. You may be surprised by how rewarding that feels.

Create a helpful culture.

If you feel like you’re drowning, chances are your team feels that way, too. Talk to them about how you recognize that everyone has a lot on their plate and tell them to speak up if they need help.

Emphasize the importance of leaning on one another, and the art and magic of true collaboration.

Breathe in. Breathe out.

Don’t wait until you’re totally freaking out to start trying to calm yourself down.

Controlled breathing has been shown to reduce blood pressure, promote feelings of relaxation, and help you de-stress.

Try this simple exercise–inhale for the count of four. Then slowly exhale for a count of four. Work up to inhaling and exhaling for a count of six. Do it for five minutes a day and see how much more relaxed you are.

Manage expectations.

You have a lot to do and not as much time to do it–don’t keep that a secret. Tell your co-workers, clients, and family members about your limited availability and the potential for slower response times so they know what to expect from you.

This way you hopefully won’t be caught in a situation where everyone is making you feel like you’re disappointing them.

Tell them what’s up.

You know that saying that communication is key–well, it really is key this time of year–especially if you are working globally or in dispersed teams where colleagues and clients may not understand what holidays in the U.S. entail.

Be upfront about your schedule and capacity so they aren’t expecting to hear from you when you’re huddled by the tree feverishly trying to put together a kitchen set for your child.

Compartmentalize.

The holidays can be emotional times–the intensity of family, work, and partner interactions can be heightened. And, it is tough to leave that awful fight you had with your sibling behind as you walk into your office.

Do your best to let that friction go. People are extra sensitive this time of year so don’t take what they say personally. And, understand that you can handle whatever is on your mind later once everyone cools down.

Don’t overcommit.

Best laid plans are, well, that. Know that things will pop up or not work out, and it’s okay. Be flexible. Do only what must absolutely be done–and try to enjoy yourself.

*This article was originally posted on Inc.

Change Happens. Here’s How to Deal with It.

Change Management

Change happens. To all of us. How we manage change in our lives, and our work differs from person to person.

A friend of mine was lamenting a change at work. It wasn’t necessarily a bad change. But things would be different. His responsibilities. His team. His travel schedule.

I listened, gave him some advice, and he walked away feeling much better. Easy for me to say, right? The thing is when the tables have been turned, and I’ve been through a change, I felt the same way he did, resistance. Doubt. Even fear.

Why are we so good at seeing the silver linings in change when it comes to other people’s situations–but not our own? We worry, belabor, and stew.

After my last big transition, I gave this questions a lot of thought and created five steps that I’ve since used to accept and embrace change–and they have worked. So whether it be something new and potentially exciting or something bad, I recommend the following steps:

Get in touch with your emotions.

You lost your job, or you got a new job. First, think about what’s unsettling you so much about the situation. You can’t accept what’s different if you’re unsure of why it upsets you. Getting to the core of your anxiety may help you alleviate some of it by addressing your emotions with facts and rationale.

Get perspective.

Take a step back and think about how you’ll feel a week or year from now. Will this change still be such a big deal? Do you think you will have adapted? Imagine: Will it even matter? If not, then try not to waste energy getting so upset or worked up.

Realize it’s a part of life.

Change happens. It’s inevitable. Change is what makes our lives move (and be exciting). It’s what helps us evolve and grow. Sometimes the face of change may look scary or bad but underneath, it could be hiding a blessing or opportunity. When faced with change, understand that for new things to come, old things must go.

Find the silver lining.

Even in the hardest of times and transitions, there’s almost always a silver lining of some sort. If you can’t see it, talk to someone. Chances are, an outside perspective can help you identify it. Then, after you’ve moved on from being consumed with anger, fear, or sadness, try, try, try to focus on this positive. Try to think about how you can turn this change into an opportunity.

Get moving.

It’s no secret that I think exercise can help tackle even the toughest of problems. It can help you process what’s happening, de-stress, and just plain get your mind off things. Anything from yoga to running to a brisk walk can work wonders for your mental state.

Change happens. It can be tough. There’s no mistaking that. But, I bet, if you think back through your life and all the big transitions you’ve had to tackle–most of them ended positively or, with most of them, you ended up adapting and handling the change well. You never know what lies on the other side of change. Need help dealing with change in your work? Contact me.

A version of this post was first published on Inc.