Tired of your job? Don’t look for a new one, instead, look within

IOWA CITY — If you find yourself getting bored at work, an expert on the workplace at the University of Iowa says don’t immediately jump to another job but find ways to make your current position more challenging — and fulfilling.

UI’s Tippie College of Business professor of management and entrepreneurship Amy Colbert  says bored workers can impact everyone’s productivity and bring the whole office down.  “The biggest impact is to morale,” Colbert says. “The experience of being bored at work means that people just aren’t engaged and that’s not enjoyable. We want to do interesting, important work, and so, when people are bored at work, they’re much more likely to leave the organization in search of something that is more engaging.”

Younger workers in particular might find themselves disenchanted in their first job out of school, she says, if they don’t feel like they’re making a difference in the world. Colbert says we sometimes need to remind ourselves that the work we’re doing matters, even if it is routine and mundane.  “That comes from just keeping purpose front of mind,” Colbert says. “Why did you take the job in the first place? What is it that you’re hoping to accomplish? Even if the job for today is filing or writing reports, something that’s not as exciting, keeping that ultimate purpose in mind can help you remember why you’re doing those tasks.”

Jump starting that process is hard to do by yourself, and she says you may have to look to your boss for inspiration. “This is where I think leaders come in and play a big role, helping everyone understand ‘the why’ of the work that they’re doing,” Colbert says. “So from the frontline employees, all the way up the organizational ladder, everybody should see that connection between the work that they’re doing and the broader purpose of the organization.”

Before abandoning our current jobs in search of greener pastures, she says there are likely things we can do to advocate for an expansion of our existing roles, finding new duties and opportunities.  “You could try to learn something that might set you up for a promotion, so I call that ‘job crafting,'” Colbert says. “What can you do in your current role to make it a little bit more engaging and to potentially set you up for a more engaging role in the future?”

A Gallup survey last year found only 32% of employees said they were engaged in their work, a drop from 34% in 2021 and 36% in 2020.