Burnout? Nope. Bore-Out.

Ted Bauer
4 min readJul 9, 2021

In summer ’13, I was working for McKesson in Houston. It was largely a joke of a job — my overall supervisor was on vacation for a big part of the summer, and my direct supervisor barely talked to me — so honestly, most days I was bored as hell, created a Tumblr blog which no longer exists, and sent emails to my then in-laws, who responded periodically. I lived with a 59 year-old woman named Barb who told me about her relationship to her son often, and I sometimes walked down the street to a Kroger at 10pm to buy a six-pack. My then-wife was in Minneapolis. It was an interesting, off-task time.

One day driving home from work, I told my mom how boring the job was, and how many different boring jobs I’ve had. Aside from working at ESPN, which was also boring at points, and teaching in the inner-city (which is almost never boring, but very hard), most white-collar jobs I’ve had are boring as sin. It’s a lot of hurry up and wait, and/or you adjust tracking documents that no one cares about (did that for a few years) or write blog posts very few care about (same). People love to talk about how “slammed” and “busy” they are, but a lot of that is a virtue-signaling coping mechanism. Many are very bored and flexing; many still have a boss who denotes everything as urgent. Both are, sadly, common.

That’s why I was ultimately attracted to this BBC article on “bore-out,” theoretically the opposite of “burnout,” which is in and of itself a term that means nothing because decision-makers don’t see “burnout.” They see “Johnny is really hustling this quarter.” They don’t see “Johnny is burnt and/or going to leave here soon.” It’s just different approaches to work. Burnout is a term from 1967 San Francisco that somehow, yuppies co-opted into a badge of honor. Thanks, Obama. Wait, I think I misused that joke.

Here’s the “stats part” of the bore-out situation:

In 2014, she worked on a study, looking at more than 11,000 workers at 87 Finnish organisations. She found that chronic boredom “increased the likelihood of employees’ turnover and early retirement intentions, poor self-rated health and stress symptoms”.

Other research backs this up. A 2021 study showed that 186 government workers in Turkey who suffered from boreout also dealt with depression, and high rates of stress and anxiety. Studies…

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Ted Bauer

Mostly write about work, leadership, friendship, masculinity, male infertility, and some other stuff along the way. It's a pleasure to be here.