Q: I work very efficiently so that as soon as I get into the office I have checked both my email and phone messages as well as replied to them. After that I call companies off of lists that have been gathered from previous years and that are added to each year.

My problem is that by noon each day I have nothing left to do and I hate sitting around twiddling my thumbs. I try and find things to do, or new companies to call on, but it still does not give me enough work to come close to filling my eight-hour work days.

Not only this, but I also have approximately two days each week where I have nothing to do at all because I can’t call these same companies every day. I would love to go down to part-time instead because I feel I would be more efficient if I wasn’t bored to the point of not liking this job.

I don’t know how to approach my boss about this being that I am still fairly new to the position, and the lady that I am covering for was full-time. What should I do?

A: At one extreme, work can be overwhelmingly stressful. At the other end of the spectrum, work can be incredibly boring. Somewhere in the middle, our work can be challenging enough to focus our attention and challenge us to perform well. When you hit that perfect middle zone, work can become a pleasure. A University of Chicago researcher found that people reach this middle, pleasurable zone more often at work (54 percent of the time) than in leisure (18 percent of the time). When in this zone, people are fully immersed in what they are doing and feel more creative, energized, fulfilled and happier.

Being bored at work takes a toll on many people. They frequently feel tired and even apathetic and lethargic. These feelings affect employees at work, but can also spill over into their personal lives, affecting outside relationships.

Why is there so little work at your shop? Maybe whiling away the hours without much real work is the norm at in this organization. Maybe the boss is also burned out, no longer invested in the company. If that is the case, this business may not be around for much longer. Or maybe you are not given more work because you are seen as a temporary employee who may not be around when the former employee returns from her leave.

In any event being continually bored at work is a waste to the business and discouraging to employees as most of us really do want to be productive, engaged in our jobs and feel like we are contributing to the success of the organization.

If you do value this job, you really need to find a way to sit down with your boss for a heart-to-heart talk. This can be a good learning experience for you. You could do several things:

  • Tell him/her that you do value the work and explain what you like most about it.
  • Explain that you are interested in taking on additional challenges and ask if there are additional responsibilities that could use your help.
  • Ask if there are additional skills that you could learn on the job that make you more valuable to the organization.
  • If this is not possible, and/or if you both agree that the work that you’re doing now is not adequate for you, ask if a part-time schedule would be appropriate.
  • Engage him/her in a discussion on where the business may be headed and what your future role could be.

Diplomacy should be used as to not implicate the employee on leave and imply that she had been sloughing off. You may not know what the circumstances were for her position.

The boss could respond in a couple of different ways:

  • He/she could be very impressed, take the discussion seriously and work to create productive changes that will improve not just your situation but others’ at work.
  • Or, he/she can be unresponsive. If this is the case, it may be time for you to look for another job.

— Winning Workplaces, July 02, 2007 |