Boredom in the workplace: a qualitative study of psychiatric nurses in Greece

2009-04-02T09:13:12Z (GMT) by Evangelia Loukidou
Boredom has been a concept rather neglected by organizational psychology. For some scholars boredom is an emotion limited to jobs that entail repetitiveness, monotony and standard procedures or more simply to blue-collar work. Therefore, boredom is not a feeling but a characteristic of particular jobs. However, disciplines in psychology (personality and individual differences psychology and cognitive psychology) as well as sociology have proved that boredom may inflict anyone who has certain predispositions/ personality or works in a setting that “promotes” such emotions. The purpose of this thesis is to identify and investigate whether and how boredom is expressed among professionals and in a work-setting that may be characterised as challenging. The sample consisted of psychiatric nurses of a Greek mental hospital. The use of qualitative methodology helped not only in the identification of boredom, but in providing a holistic account of this suppressed emotion. Field-work was carried out within a six-month period, in which 20 psychiatric nurses were interviewed (both formally and informally) and observed while working. The prolonged time spend in the field provided the opportunity to learn about the rituals, procedures, language, behaviours, emotions and beliefs about the life in the psychiatric hospital as described or exemplified by nurses. The results of the study indicate that boredom is not a private emotion, but an emotional construct that is developed gradually over time and through various intermingling factors (personal-group-organizational). The findings support the notion that work-boredom is not confined into the strict boundaries of task attributes or personality characteristics and is not a straightforward emotion like dissatisfaction. Rather, it is an emotion that may be expressed in diverse and even contradictory forms (apathy or hostility), as a short-term emotional reaction against specific job features or as prevalent mental state attributed to the broader work environment. Boredom proves to be an “interesting” subject for inquiry because of the contradictions, the variability and the complex mechanisms that underlie it.