Bored? Working On Autopilot?

“I’m so bored I could do this job with my eyes closed.”

Are you at the point where you’re no longer challenged in the work you perform on a daily basis? You could be blissfully unaware that you are doing a great deal of damage to yourself; damage that is or soon will affect not just your professional life but your personal life as well.

Now make no mistake, many people who are in the right job do from time-to-time experience moments where they have mastered their work. There’s a rhythm that exists where an employee needs training in the workplace, learns a job function, works to master it, excels, then is cross-trained adding to their expertise or seeks out new challenges in new roles with the same employer and repeats.

The above pattern doesn’t fit for everyone however. No for a multitude of people they enter a company, learn a job, master the requirements of the position and then for a time they exist as a happy and productive worker. The problem comes when that same person stagnates; ceases to feel fulfilled in the work they do and as a result poses a danger to themselves, the company, their co-workers and the customers or clients they provide products and services for.

This is a danger whether the person is operating machinery on a production line, driving for a living, making life or death decisions in a medical setting, sitting in a toll booth – virtually any position and in any situation.

Because we are all unique from one another, some of us don’t necessarily want or need constant stimulation in the work that we do. There are many folks who thrive in a job that others would find tedious and bore quickly performing. They can quite happily go in day after day, month after month and year after year without needing a change in responsibilities or scenery. For these folks, they’re happy in the work they do and they maintain the focus required to perform at a high level of excellence. They are dependable, work with diligence and pride producing high-quality goods and services.

However, people are interchangeable are we? There are some jobs we’d love and others we’d grow quickly tired of or could not perform well in because we aren’t invested in wanting to learn.

In the situation I’m talking about today however, this is where a person seeks out work they can perform well and initially enjoys. Over time, the person masters the tasks of the job and then hits a plateau. The learning stops, the skills are mastered, the challenge is gone and no new ones await. The employee stagnates, becomes increasingly aware that there is nothing being stimulated as they go about their job and starts to feel unfulfilled. A feeling of dissatisfaction takes seed and starts to grow which if unchecked can lead to resentment, disappointment, self-doubt and reduced self-worth.

In the extreme, an employer may come to view the former excellent employee as the cancer; misdiagnosis them in their performance assessments as the problem instead of recognizing the excellent employee is in there still, it’s just the work being performed that needs attention. In all fairness though, not every employer has the option of rotating employees around or adding new challenges to the job function. By the very nature of the job, it could be impossible as in the case of a Parking Lot Attendant taking money and issuing receipts or the person who cleans the movie theatre between shows. The job function stays essentially unchanged; there are no advances in technology or additional training that the people in the job require to perform the work.

Performing a job on auto-pilot is as I say potentially dangerous. A person could slip in the quality of goods they produce and the expense to recall the defective products and replace them plus the drop in consumer confidence could be quite devastating. Many a person has been fired or let go because they got bored and their work suffered as a direct result.

Then there is ones personal life. Grow despondent at work and you’ll possibly start feeling stressed on your days off just thinking about having to go back to work. You may find yourself needing more and more time to unwind, or that lack of stimulation could carry over into your personal life and you disengage from activities you used to find fun, almost going through life numb.

We all learn at different speeds, master skills quickly or over long periods of time. Some need constant stimulation others don’t. Generally speaking, employers have a good idea of what the jobs they have to offer require from the people who perform them. This is why for example someone might apply for a job only to be rejected because the employer doesn’t believe you’ll last long in the job based on what they learn about you.

The bottom line? Pay attention to your personal needs in the work you do now. Watch for signs of prolonged boredom to be wary of. If you are the kind of person who needs more of a challenge, look around before you get burnt out to see if there is a way to manage that transition. Have a chat with your employer if possible with respect to how you feel. Could be there is something that can be done. Not always of course, but perhaps.    

Written By Kelly Mitchell

Bored? Working On Autopilot? was originally published @ Employment Counselling with Kelly Mitchell and has been syndicated with permission.

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