After I graduated from Makerere University Business School, I went to work with Leather Industries Uganda. While there, I experienced both anxiety and boredom. I was anxious for the first months because the work (accounting) I was doing required me to learn lots of skills so fast. After I mastered the skills, boredom set in because all over a sudden I realized I could do more than I was being asked to do. Can you relate to me?
Behavioral expert Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi in his book Beyond Boredom and Anxiety : experiencing flow in work and play explains this controversy by stating, “One source of frustration in the workplace is the frequent mismatch between what people MUST do and what people CAN do”. He goes ahead to say, “When what they must do exceeds their capabilities, the result is anxiety. When what they must do falls short of their capabilities the result is boredom”
Under delivering on what you must do will cause frustration because of the expectations your Leader has of you and below par performance on what you can do will result into frustrated potential. Both of these conditions are bad for innovation. If you are looking at infusing creativity into what you do you might want to find ways to stay happy.
So how did I deal with the frustrations at work?
- My “CAN” do things increased; I got permission from my boss; Sanjoy Ghosh to spend the afternoons in the factory learning about leather. Leather tanning has over thirteen processes and within a process there are sub-processes so it was a never-ending lesson for me. I felt my potential was being explored.
- My “MUST” list increased by the day I was quickly promoted to a Marketing and Sales Manager which required me to do something new apart from my accounting work.
As you can see if you want to reduce boredom and anxiety at work, you constantly have to outgrow what you are doing at the moment and be bold to reach new horizons within your work.
Credit: Sudesh Kaka.