Sunday, January 17, 2010

The Office Space Mentality The overlooked stressor

Joanna: So, where do you work, Peter?
Peter Gibbons: Initech.
Joanna: In... yeah, what do you do there?
Peter Gibbons: I sit in a cubicle and I update bank software for the 2000 switch.
Joanna: What's that?
Peter Gibbons: Well see, they wrote all this bank software, and, uh, to save space, they used two digits for the date instead of four. So, like, 98 instead of 1998? Uh, so I go through these thousands of lines of code and, uh... it doesn't really matter. I uh, I don't like my job, and, uh, I don't think I'm gonna go anymore.

Probably the most overlooked stressor is the stress of being in a rut, of just not wanting to be there. Another humdrum day of going to the same atmosphere, doing the same unfulfilling tasks, working the same people, for the same pay. Silly, you say?

No doubt, this is a stress most in relatively worse situations would gladly take. But it is a stressor nonetheless. Boredom is a ruthless killer, subtle yet deadly.

People spend lifetimes in boring, unfulfilling careers. That’s the nature of work, right? It’s not supposed to be enjoyable. We should be able to handle a little boredom.

All sorts of factors play into this. A Lumbergh-esque boss, tedious bureaucracy, even more tedious tasks, demanding customers, being overqualified, just being in a rut, etc.; when you are bored, you just don’t care.

It affects your performance, no doubt. It may start with mere boredom, but if we allow it to fester, it can turn into indifference, which turns into mediocrity, at best or spiral into something much worse.

Probably the most aggravating thing about it, is there is no one we can blame for our responses to it.

So what do you do about it?

One yoga teacher describes it as a vicious cycle. “Boredom is fear. If you’re bored, you are not experiencing what you’re doing, and you aren’t experiencing what you’re doing because you’re afraid.”

“But why would I want to experience filing TPS reports?” you ask. Maybe it’s not experiencing the actual tasks, but being present whilst you are performing them.

Another way to survive it is to make sure you are balancing work tedium with enjoyable activities. “But I have no time,” you say. Find time. It doesn’t take much time to read an interesting article or have an interesting conversation.

A popular philosophy is, there are no boring jobs, only boring people. And it’s true. It might not be your ideal job, but it’s the job you have at this present moment, and trite as it may sound, it’s best to keep your head up today. John Milton had it right when he said, “The mind is its own place, and in itself, can make heaven of Hell, and a hell of Heaven.”

Try to keep an upbeat attitude for today…for this hour…for this minute.
Relish the good things that happen at work, even if they are few and far between.


photo credit Lucas Berrin


  1. I knew I was in a rut at all but one of my jobs when they didn't become fun for me anymore. The work became dull to me (the industries themselves weren't that interesting to me as it was) and I found that by 3 o'clock my brain was already starting to shut down. But at the same time, I've currently been unemployed for over two years due to the economy, and am fervently praying for a new job soon - ANY job at this point. Now that I've been without for so long, I will pour my heart into whatever I get because I don't know how long it will last!

  2. it's interesting how experiences can change our perspective, making us appreciate something we wouldn't under normal circumstances....b