Bored People Quit – Addressing Employee Boredom

It can cost a company between 20 and 33% of a job salary to replace an employee who quits.  The ripple effect of losing team members can damage productivity, momentum and morale.

Why then do we overlook the number one reason people leave their roles?


Of the 5,000 people surveyed who left jobs in 2018, 33% said they were leaving because they were bored and wanted a new challenge – considerably more than the 19% who left in search of better-paying employment. For HR, departures due to boredom are a real problem that costs in the region of $15,000 per $45,000 salaried employee, and we need a solution.

Let’s take a look at how you can detect if team members are bored and what to do about it if they are. 

How do HR or management notice employee boredom and disinterest? 

Noticeable Shifts in Behaviors

Employees suffering boredom and disengagement will often find it difficult to maintain full commitment to their roles. Punctuality and productivity can begin to suffer while their vocal presence in meetings will typically drop off. 

In the office setting, bored employees chat more with teammates and increase personal phone usage. Associates will also turn to regularly filing or cleaning their desks to break up the monotony they experience. You may even begin to notice uncharacteristic sick days being taken. This is usually a warning sign that your employee may be attending interviews. 

Underemployed and Unchallenged

Many employees do their finest work when they are tasked with something that is above their skill set. The challenge gives them an avenue to test their abilities and achieve a higher level of mastery. When projects slide to the other of the lower end of the challenge spectrum, people tend to check out. The routineness of the role ceases to excite or intrigue, offering no learning opportunities. 

Taking note of people who are underemployed or have outgrown their roles is essential. Up to 87% of millennials look for positions with development opportunities. If a role no longer satisfies any of the three intrinsic motivators (Purpose, Autonomy or Mastery), boredom will arise. 

Just ask…

Employees considering leaving their current company often feel like they are exhibiting infidelity, so they may not display the above traits. That does not mean they don’t experience frustrations. 

Usually, if management thinks the associate is bored, they are, or there is, at least, some issue at play. It can never hurt to ask.

Asking employees how they are doing or what more can be done to support them goes a long way toward making them feel cared for. 

Exit Interviews

Businesses with high churn rates often find themselves asking why retention is so low but overlook the power of an exit interview. Of course, by this point, the employee has made the decision but just as with market research, asking a departing team member their reasons for leaving is illuminating. 

As an HR manager, no opportunities to learn more about staff satisfaction levels should be lost. Conducting an interview in an honest and tasteful manner can help curtail significant turnover issues. 

How can employee boredom be remedied?

  1. Create Challenging Assignments

Between not having enough work (30% of departures) and having routinely unchallenging work (44%), a large part of the boredom dilemma comes from feeling underemployed. This issue can be circumvented by setting individualized goals with the team member that may or may not have anything to do with work. For example, setting a soft skill-based challenge can activate the mindset of the team member. Challenges could include: 

  • Generating solutions for process streamlining
  • Assessing the market for competitor advantages or new technology
  • Inviting team members to sit in on strategy level meetings
  • Shadowing a more senior staff member
  • Get to know or train another staff member
  • Find out small personal details from clients to build relationships
  1. Place Employee in New Teams

In 2019, the ADP studied engagement levels in 19,000 workers across the world. What they found in relation to teams is vital for the understanding of optimizing employees. 

Workers in teams were 2.3 times more likely to be fully engaged than those who are not in any team. In fact, the more teams employees were on the higher the engagement, with 5 distinct teams being the best.

Placing workers into new teams and environments challenges them in different capacities. While they face new tasks, they also must recalibrate to work well with the new people around them. This awakens interpersonal and job-related skills allowing little opportunity for boredom to fester. 

  1. Value Their Time

Just as some employees have too little to do, others may have too much. 25% of employees described their boredom sources as having too much to do. Their days were filled with menial or unfamiliar tasks. If not, they were overworked and at their wit’s end with putting in overtime which in turn demotivated their best intentions leaving them bored.  

Leadership can display what it really means to care for your team by discussing this with the team member and finding an agreeable resolution. This may involve being excused from meetings, delegating tasks to others or offering other support. Tipping the balance of an employees workload back into the ‘manageable’ category reduces despondency induced boredom. 

  1. Training and Development

Workforce expectations and demands continue to change with career development becoming the priority of most age categories. As much as 80% of employees believe that learning new skills would dramatically reduce boredom and disengagement. Moreover, if the training and development aligns to that team members career aspirations, your team will be more engaged than ever. 

  1. Revisit Interviews or Discuss Goals with Employees

The unfortunate thing in some interviews is that the mutual benefit of certain answers can be forgotten. So often the question of “Where do you see yourself in 5 years?” inquires as to loyalty and commitment without actually appreciating the answer. Most associates will offer a career aspiration in answering these types of questions. 

HR teams and management who are truly paying attention will record and value these answers. Knowing the career goals of the team helps management develop a roadmap to employee goals. 

If it didn’t come up before, ask them in the next 1:1. What are they motivated by and how can you help serve that ambition? If the team see a path to progression, they will put their best foot forward. 

  1. Improve Autonomy

Autonomy, one of Dan Pink’s pillars of motivation, is a powerful attribute. Improving autonomy can include time and task flexibility as well as the freedom to decide what teams an employee chooses to be involved in. 

Google introduced a concept called 20% time back in 2013. This required employees to apportion 20% of their time to working on anything they wanted, including personal errands. While the reality of the outcomes continues to be debated, the boredom level dropped while productivity increased. Additionally Shake Shack, Microsoft Japan, Radioactive Public Relations among many others pioneered 4-day work weeks. Each reported improved engagement and productivity which may provide an outlier move to the conundrum. 


Boredom is at the root of 1 in every 3 people moving on to new work pastures.

Each company is preventably losing considerable talent because they are not being challenged in the right way. Not only is there a direct financial implication but this issue also impacts team morale due to attitudes and losing workplace friends. 

It is the job of any team leader to get the best out of their teams. This includes knowing when an employee is no longer fully committed. 

Be open and honest where necessary and ask them if this is what they are experiencing. Then, and only then, can you begin to address the factors causing boredom and reinvigorate their passion. Ultimately, as a leader, it is your actions that decide if employee boredom is short-lived or negatively consequential.