Last week I had the opportunity to talk on the radio about a relatively unknown mental health issue called Bore Out. Most of us are familiar with Burn Out, but not many of us have heard of Bore Out.

Bore Out is the equally stressful cousin of burn out in that the symptoms are very similar. People experience exhaustion, listlessness, dissatisfaction at work, anxiety and feel down or depressed. The difference between Burn Out and Bore Out is that burn out leaves people physically exhausted, while Bore Out leaves them psychologically exhausted. People with Bore Out can keep going but they just don’t have the motivation to.

The pandemic has of course thrown an additional spanner in the works. Well, let’s face it, the pandemic was like a hailstorm of spanners in many works, but in a lot of cases, having to work from home caused chronic boredom because working in the same physical environment becomes tiresome. When working from home, our physical environment never changes – work becomes home and home becomes work, and that can be tedious for a lot of people. There are those people who have loved it, but for most people, is has been very difficult.  

Enter Gen Y(millennials). The typical characteristics of this generation, young people in their 20s to late 30s, means they value:

  • meaningful motivation
  • relationships and social interactions with people – real, live, in person people – in the workplace
  • technology and have an intuitive knowledge for it
  • change and disruption for development
  • a passion for learning
  • free-thinking and creativity

You can imagine what life during the pandemic has been like for them.

MEANINGFUL MOTIVATIONSelf-motivation required – easily become demotivated
RELATIONSHIPS AND SOCIAL INTERACTIONSIsolated – leads to depression and loneliness; no socialising; no sports
LOVE FOR TECHNOLOGYTechnology was a godsend for keeping in touch with others, but it has led to addiction and fatigue. People are frustrated by not being able to have physical interactions. They are bored with online interactions.
NEED FOR CHANGENo travel to work; no dynamic office environment; no different faces to see daily; no change of scenery
PASSION FOR LEARNINGIf you’re feeling demotivated, then you lose the urge to learn. At the beginning of lockdown people were very keen to learn new things, but that has dwindled due to apathy and being disheartened. While technology is their thing, online learning/ meetings have become tedious and less engaging.
FREE THINKING AND CREATIVITYIt is hard to be creative when you feel like there is no purpose, and without other people around to bounce creativity off.

Is Bore Out something Millennials are more susceptible to, or is it just a part of their culture?

I do believe that millennials are more susceptible to bore out. But whether this is in fact a mental health issue, or simply because of how they function, is something worth debating.  The way they function at work is different in a lot of ways to how older generations function. Previous generations worked for a salary and didn’t care much about their purpose. They were more focused on job satisfaction than development. The hierarchical system at work was more pronounced – they had a boss and not a mentor. And they separated their job from their life. 

Millennials not so much.

From a psychological point of view, Bore Out causes boredom, despondency, and the ongoing frustrations people experience gradually lead them into a vicious cycle. They progressively lose the will to work, as well as to function in their personal lives.

There is a general loss of self-esteem which is exacerbated by the constant anxiety of being “found out”. No one wants any colleagues, never mind managers or supervisors, to discover that they are bored.  This anxiety leads to more stress that intensifies and causes more paralysis at work, and more dissatisfaction. The loss of self-esteem comes from continually feeling like their job is meaningless, and they have no purpose.

For this Y generation in particular, it is the absence of meaning that causes more issues than the presence of stress.

But does this mean they are more susceptible to it? Or that is it a natural symptom of their way of being?  

There is a huge amount of frustration from being blocked – to be what they want to be and do what they want to do, which are the things that would give them purpose. The real problem is that while they may be hating their situation, there is a fear about asking for more challenging work, or even different work. I believe this is why this generation is more susceptible, because they are less likely to speak up.

As people age and mature, they get more comfortable with difficult conversations, and grow in confidence to be able to ask for what they want or need. Older generations generally have the self-assurance to be able to speak to a manager or supervisor and explain what they are going through, without fear of being replaced or fired.  

Millennials are not quite there yet.

The solution to Bore Out lies in self-awareness, and having the confidence to make changes to your life to make you feel more fulfilled. This may be why millennials are the most likely generation to job hop, and why they have a reputation for being least engaged in the workplace. They tend to be less passionate about their jobs and invest less energy in their work. This may mean that Bore Out, for this generation, is a vicious cycle. They will keep being bored, and job hopping or being discontent, until they find a job that they deem to be meaningful and makes them feel worthwhile.

The obvious upside to this though, is that millennials will change the world through disruption, more than any other generation so far. They don’t just work for a salary – they work for a purpose. And they will be ‘bored out’ of their minds and dissatisfied unless they can find that. Which could mean positive things for a world that is in desperate need of disruption and change.  

CLICK HERE to sign up for our FREE webinar on The Antidote to Bore Out
12 Aug, 12pm – 1pm

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