What Does "Boreout" Mean?

Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum

"Boreout" is a term used to describe a phenomenon that occurs in the workplace as the result of a slowdown in production that leaves employees bored and dissatisfied with the work environment. The general idea behind this particular management theory is that when employees are not provided with the opportunity to apply their abilities to effectively manage tasks and do not find their work to be fulfilling or challenging, interest in the work begins to decline. While boreout can occur in just about any type of work environment, it is usually exemplified in office environments.

Boreout can occur in just about any type of work environment.
Boreout can occur in just about any type of work environment.

The idea of boreout is a different concept from the more familiar idea of work burnout. With burnout, an employee is essentially too busy, with an overabundance of tasks and projects assigned. In this scenario, the employee’s dissatisfaction comes from the frustration of being unable to manage his or her workload effectively, a situation that tends to undermine confidence and affect the group dynamics of the office. By contrast, employees who experience boreout are frustrated with the lack of meaningful work that allows them to leave the office each day with a sense of accomplishment.

A boreout can increase feelings of fatigue.
A boreout can increase feelings of fatigue.

There are several common signs that could indicate that boreout is taking place. One has to do with a deterioration of the culture in the workplace. When employees who are generally team players begin to withdraw into a state of social alienation from the rest of the team, that is a sign of unhappiness with the challenge and possibly the volume of work available. There may be a sense of being unable to advance in the company ranks, owing to a lack of opportunities to apply their abilities to best advantage. Over time, the boreout will lead to apathy regarding those few tasks that are assigned, a situation that can increase error rates and lead to further problems with productivity.

At times, an employee who is experiencing boreout may be perceived as being lazy or uninterested in his or her job. Far from being the case, the employee feels underused and begins to question if he or she provides any real value to the office at all. At the same time, the employee will take steps to avoid being fired since unemployment is usually not a desirable end. This leads to a motivation to create an illusion of being busy, often by making sure there are paper documents constantly spread over a work area, half-started documents displayed on a computer screen, and a desk calendar that at first glance appears to indicate several pending tasks. The illusion of being busy only serves to make the situation worse, since the employee is still completing assigned tasks in very little time and is left bored for the remainder of the work day.

Employers should be alert to the presence of boreout around the office. Finding meaningful ways to reverse the boredom will often be enough to move a lackluster employee into one who is happy and very productive. Delegating additional responsibilities that the employee perceives as being important to the company and to the office in particular will often spark new interest and pride in the job, a result that will have a positive effect on the office environment in general.

Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum

After many years in the teleconferencing industry, Michael decided to embrace his passion for trivia, research, and writing by becoming a full-time freelance writer. Since then, he has contributed articles to a variety of print and online publications, including wiseGEEK, and his work has also appeared in poetry collections, devotional anthologies, and several newspapers. Malcolm’s other interests include collecting vinyl records, minor league baseball, and cycling.

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