How to tell my bosses I'm bored
December 30, 2016 7:05 AM   Subscribe

I'm bored at work. I don't want to be bored. How do I talk about this with my bosses at my performance review?

I am a good performer at work, and receive positive reviews. However, I don't have enough to do. I need both more tasks and more guidance on how to use my time.

I spent four months at a different, more fast-paced office this year, and I was delightfully busy working on a hectic and interesting project that took up a lot of time. I'm fine with the lack of hectic-ness in my regular office, but I don't have too much deep work on which to spend my time.

I have my annual performance review coming up. I feel okay about my performance, but I know I really shone in the other office -- I was nominated for a company-wide award based on this work, and it's paid off professionally. People know I can do the work. How do I communicate that I can do more and that I want to do more?

- I am not entry level; I am a knowledge worker at a desk-job.
- I have been at this job for about 2 years. I have been bored the whole time.
- I ask my direct manager regularly for tasks, but it seems to burden him to give me more.
- It seems expected that my extant tasks will occupy all my time. They don't.
- This meeting is with my direct manager and his manager, both of whom I work very closely with.
- I have good and relatively open relationships with both these people.
- I will truly do anything, as long as it takes up more of my time.
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (11 answers total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
Tell your boss you know you want to do more! Say you really want more responsibilities and new challenges. Say you know you thrive when you have abundant work and challenges. Basically be honest. Except for that part about being bored.
posted by Kalmya at 7:25 AM on December 30, 2016 [9 favorites]

The best thing you can do with your extra time is come up with some ideas for ways you could fill that time with projects or tasks that will benefit the company. Take some initiative to observe what the business needs and figure out how you can contribute. Basically -- if you see this as a problem ("I'm bored,") and expect them to fix it for you, that's going to reflect poorly on your professionalism and initiative. If you see this as an opportunity ("I have time available to keep growing my role/my skills/my value to the company,") and take the time to make some constructive proposals, that will reflect really positively on you.

"I'm bored at my job and I always have been. When I ask my boss for extra tasks he seems burdened by the request. Can somebody other than me please take responsibility for fixing my feeling of boredom?"

"Now that I've gotten more efficient at daily tasks, and now that Project X is complete, I have some extra time in my day that I'd like to make good use of. Can you give me some guidance on what you'd like me to take on next?"

"This year, I carried out Project X, which benefited the company in ways A, B, and C. I have also gotten more efficient at my day-to-day operations, which no longer take up so much of my time. I'd like to continue to develop my skills and I feel like I have some time to take on new challenges. I've come up with a couple of ideas for how to use the time I've freed up to bring value to the company -- for example, Projects Y and Z. I've drawn up a basic outline of those projects and their ROI. Would either or both of those projects fit into your plan for my role/the department/the company?"
" I've come up with a list of 25 ideas for how to use my extra time to benefit the company. Could we review this list and see what matches the company's priorities best?"
"I think the company could use some additional expertise in area X, and I'd like to grow my role to encompass that area as well as my current area. I've compiled information on the costs and time commitment of several training courses that I think would allow me to do X, Y, Z for the company. Can I plan to use some of my time for professional development in this area?"
posted by ourobouros at 7:31 AM on December 30, 2016 [37 favorites]

Since your manager seems to be stressed when you ask for tasks, I'd instead mention that you would like to keep your eyes open for projects and initiatives in which your involvement will benefit both you and the company, that this will help you stay engaged and have a better understanding of your workplace. You can let your manager know that you will make sure these do not impact your performance and will ask for permission or keep him updated (depending on his need for control) before committing to something big. Maybe you can ask them if there are any strategic initiatives that could use an extra person.

This is how I stay occupied at work - I talk to my colleagues about what they are doing and insert myself into anything that sounds interesting. I try to match my areas of interest to areas of need where people are overworked or don't have expertise.
posted by beyond_pink at 7:33 AM on December 30, 2016 [1 favorite]

This is the best possible "complaint" to bring to your bosses. But instead of "I'm bored," frame it as "I want new challenges and I believe I have the time and brainpower to take on additional projects on top of my current work." Think of a few potential projects, growth areas, or expansions to your current role that you can propose, because it's possible there just isn't any more work for you to take on. And if your work has a professional development reimbursement program, take advantage of it; investigate courses/seminars/conferences that look interesting.

Managers love people who work hard and proactively, and it's always best to bring a couple potential solutions when presenting a problem. And it sounds like your bosses are happy with your work, and trying to think of more stuff for you to do just creates unnecessary work for them, so consider this your problem to fix. If you can't think of any ways to expand your role, you might as well spend your extra time writing a novel or something.
posted by Metroid Baby at 7:45 AM on December 30, 2016 [3 favorites]

It's better to think up your own work projects and propose them to your boss than to ask for new tasks. what about keeping stats on the work you do and who you serve and presenting them in interesting grabs or infographics?

If you ask your boss, you may end up with something you hate. And it is sometimes a burden to the boss... sort of like when a kid says I'm bored to his parent..... the parent can suggest a lot of things, none of which the kid wants to do. You could end up with more work but work you dislike.
posted by mulcahy at 9:21 AM on December 30, 2016 [2 favorites]

Agree with everything that's been said here. Under no circumstances should you say "bored." When I hear bored, I hear a person saying "I don't manage my time well", "I'm unmotivated by the work I'm doing", "I don't care about the mission of the office", etc. If you're instead saying how excited you would be to expand your current tasks and add new challenges, that should be pretty likely to get your boss' attention.
posted by Happydaz at 11:05 AM on December 30, 2016 [1 favorite]

An overburdened manager with a bored, underemployed report is doing it wrong. Way wrong. He doesn't need to make up something for you to do, he needs to break off a piece of what HE does and delegate it to you.

He needs to realize that although teaching someone else is initially harder than doing it himself, it rapidly becomes a net positive once you've got it. His work quality will increase, with two people's eyes on it (him as the second checker/coach.) It's investing in your professional development, training you for his job by the most effective method: hands-on. And yes, even if his job isn't what you wanted in your wildest dreams, at least you won't be bored. He does this with all of his direct reports, a different piece, maybe switching it up when people get in a rut. With all his new-found free time, he takes on a piece of HIS boss's work. Someone retires or leaves the company. Everyone moves up a step to fill the gap seamlessly with minimal disruption. Yay, promotions all around.

That's how continuity planning and professional development works. Anything he signs his name to shouldn't be done by him. He doesn't write the report, he reads the report you made for him and signs his name if he agrees. He doesn't make an employee schedule, etc. Your strategy is to simply ask your manager what you can help him with, because you have the time and you want him to succeed.

Unfortunately, having too many employees for the workload is also a thing, if he's already doing all that. Does it make sense to realign the resources to where the need is (i.e., you go back to the busier office)?
posted by ctmf at 11:41 AM on December 30, 2016 [1 favorite]

Also consider that if your manager seems stressed they are either not delegating appropriately (they have more work than they can manage but don't solicit help as required) or they should have a reasonable load but are a lot slower than you - there is a reason why they feel that your tasks should keep you busy... Be sure you're reading the situation correctly. The worst outcome is that manager's manger is all for giving you more responsibility and asks your manager to delegate and your manager feels threatened by that in some way. If there is any chance of that labour the idea of another project, not tasks delegated by your manager.
posted by koahiatamadl at 11:43 AM on December 30, 2016

The magic word here is "challenging". Don't say you are bored - say you do not find your current workload challenging enough. Any good manager should be ready to respond to that.
posted by simonw at 2:09 PM on December 30, 2016

I think it's important to have some specific ideas. Is there anything your office isn't doing that they should and, hey, you'd be happy to take on? Is there a type of work skill that you want that you can say you're interested in helping with? Is there a specific protocol or process you think would help you do your job, that you can sell as being better for the whole office?

Just saying, "I'm bored" will make it look like you're not proactive enough or finding things to do. Talk about the things you've found to do and get permission to do them. If you want something to be done differently to help you, make sure you sell it as something that benefits your boss, too.
posted by AppleTurnover at 2:29 PM on December 30, 2016

If your boss isn't giving you more work when you ask for it, it may be because figuring out more work for other people to do is actually hard work in itself and he doesn't have the bandwidth. How about you go figure out a project that you can do that would help the company, (optionally present to him first), then go do it!
posted by Joe Chip at 3:56 PM on December 31, 2016

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