Remember how it felt on your first day of work? You had a beginner’s mindset. You wanted to learn as much as possible, and you were open to as much growth and learning opportunities as you could get.
Fast forward a few years (for some, a few months), though, and things are very different. You don’t really know what happened—you’ve just been gradually losing interest at work. Leaving isn’t an option to you. At the same time, you know you have to do something about your growing disinterest. Maybe it hasn’t affected your performance at work as of now, but if it keeps growing, it might turn into full-on discontent and disengagement.
Pushing growth, sustaining motivation, and driving engagement are all critical factors in attaining high achievement and performance at work. Waiting for top-down initiatives to spark organisational change, though, isn’t all there is to it. Here’s what you can do for yourself and those around you when you’re losing interest in your job.
P.S. Engage yourself at work; sign up for SSA Academy’s WSQ course on demonstrating initiative and enterprising behaviour today!
A lot of the time, when people start to feel bored at work, they blame it on the job itself. Maybe the tasks you’ve been given at work no longer excite you the way they did when you first came on board. Alternatively, perhaps you were re-assigned to a different portfolio that doesn’t interest you as much. Others blame management for failing to engage them, or for failing to recognise and utilise their people’s strengths accordingly.
The problem with this is that it puts the ball in the court of people and circumstances you can’t control. Although leaders play a huge role in affecting how engaged and motivated their people are, you are also in control of how you react and adapt to various situations.
Take responsibility for how engaged you are with your work. Get to the root cause of your boredom—why is the work boring you? For example, are you feeling under-challenged, or do you want an opportunity to showcase your strengths and capabilities, beyond just what you’ve been routinely doing?
Meaning-making is a lifelong endeavour, including at work. According to Wharton professor Adam Grant, people often think that deriving meaning from work is about doing a specific kind of work, as teachers and surgeons do. This, however, isn’t true; you can find meaning in all kinds of work, as long as you take responsibility for it.
In other words, being engaged and finding meaning in what you do is a proactive, not a passive, pursuit. The more you strive to apply yourself wholly to your work, the more autonomous and intrinsically motivated you’ll be. Ultimately, you’ll also have a greater sense of ownership over what you do.
There’s a saying—“Do what you love, and you’ll never have to work another day in your life.” Expectations are the root of despair, and it applies in this context too.
The reality is that even if you love what you do, you won’t necessarily love everything about it all the time. It also doesn’t mean that if you love what you do, work will be play, and play will be work.
You don’t need to love everything about your job, nor do you have to be “always on.” Some days will feel great, and slipping into the rhythm of your routines at work will be easy. Other days, it’s harder. Waiting until you “feel like it” to push yourself to peak performance, however, is a losing strategy. Not only will you end up learning less when you do this; you’ll also lose out to others who are willing to devote themselves to their work whether or not they “feel like it.”
It’s all about perspective. Your interest and engagement at work rest heavily on your perspective of it, and on how much value you derive from it. According to the Harvard Business Review, there are 4 kinds of value that people perceive from their work:
If, for example, boredom is the root of the problem and you don’t find your work intellectually stimulating enough, you could play to your strengths. In this case, your strengths aren’t just the things you’re good at. You could be good at doing certain things without actually liking them. Think about the things you’re both good at and interested in; this is what will energise you at work.
So, find opportunities to do more of it in ways that value-add to you, to the people around you, and to the company. If you’re an extrovert and you love helping people, for example, it’s in everyone’s interests for you to find new and better ways to collaborate with your co-workers.
Similarly, if the work you do is a huge part of your identity, you may find it discouraging that you’re losing interest. The key here, though, is not to throw in the towel too soon.
Make self-improvement your biggest goal at work and in life. Find ways to enter the “flow” state. Here, you’re at your most productive and concentrated, and where your skills improve the most. Seek challenges out every day; find tasks that are harder than what you’re used to without being overwhelming. If you keep giving yourself stretch tasks that help you enter this zone, you stand to grow and learn far more rapidly than if you were to keep doing the same things over and over again without much progress.