the boredom factor

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The other day, a friend of mine was telling me about the worst job he had ever had. Coincidently, it was also the only job he had ever really wanted. After high school (and while deciding between becoming a famous rock star and going to school), he decided to take the training he needed to become a lifeguard.

Growing up, lifeguards were demigods to him. He couldn’t fathom the fact that someone would actually pay you to sit in a big chair and watch all the sunbathing beauties down below (oh, and occasionally save someone’s life). It looked like the easiest thing in the world. After some certification, he got the job and was ecstatic. The excitement was short-lived.

That spring, the pool’s long time coordinator had retired and the administration felt the need to fill the position rather quickly. They did so with a gal they had managed to, in his words, “reincarnate from the Third Reich.”

She was a fierce and intense woman who ruled the pool with an iron fist. The pool’s patrons were maggots. The employees—unseasoned serfs. She appointed her young but equally vicious daughter as her second-in-command. As the long summer days passed, the two incurred several heated run-ins with moms who had taken their kids to the pool for a little relaxation. Parents hated her. Children feared her. The guards, stood at attention, answered yes ma’am and no ma’am and prayed they’d never fall too far from her grace. Needless to say, revenues dropped under her regime.

I found it interesting that despite the negativity, what he said put him over the edge was not the abuse of power, but the sheer boredom that followed as a direct result of her leadership. In the guard shack, people barely talked. They executed shift rotations like soldiers on the Berlin wall. When work was over, employees fled to their cars and got as far away as possible. Poor management had taken what would have otherwise been a dream job for any young person and made it a living nightmare.

In my own experience, I have learned two great truths when it comes to employment: 1. No job is too great to fall from grace, and 2. No “boring job” is doomed to a life of purgatory.

In the wet and gloomy city of Seattle, there is a market known as the Pike Place Fish market. If you’ve never heard of it before, take two seconds and Google it. They have built themselves a world famous fish market, not because of their fish, but because of their determination to have fun. They sing, they play, they toss fish, and all the while they have made themselves immensely successful enterprise.

Managers who are able to reap the best work from their employees understand there is a balance that must be achieved in the workspace. Boredom is no respecter of persons. It can occur in any employee at any job at any time. If it occurs for too long, people will abandon ship.

Some companies look to implement games and gimmicks as a means of digression. While these activates can be fun and will relieve employees temporarily, the best answer is to make the work itself fun—or at least make it worthwhile.

Those who take satisfaction in their work are unlikely to leave it. How you choose to do this is up to you. I’ve found no two jobs are exactly alike nor are any two employees. Every position must be handled differently.

Above all else, remember: it’s not about the games. It’s about finding joy in the work and helping others to do so as well.

By tim brown
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