You show up to work. You do your job. You say the right things. You work extra hours when asked.
But you’re just making it through the day. Your heart isn’t in it, you’re not really present.
I see a growing number of job applicants—in my case, senior executives—who fit this description. They aren’t looking for a new job because of money or even personal growth: they are simply bored to death in their current position.
If that describes you, you’re suffering from “brownout”—a condition one stage shy of complete burnout. It’s a state I see too many employees find themselves in. And management, executives, and even business owners can suffer from brownout.
If that’s the case, here’s what I believe you should do next.
1. Admit it to yourself.
If you just aren’t excited about your job anymore, if it’s become monotonous or boring, if it’s ceased to challenge you, be willing to admit that to yourself. Or, if your employees are experiencing brownout, be willing to admit that. Like any issue that needs fixing, denial only makes the problem worse.
If your employees have a case of brownout, be cautious about how you broach the topic. Saying “It doesn’t look like your heart is in it anymore” can cause additional problems. Employees can get concerned about their job security, which only makes brownout worse.
But if you recognize brownout in yourself, or your employees—or both—you need to bypass the denial stage completely.
As the saying goes, the first step in fixing a problem is admitting there is a problem.
2. Introduce some innovation to your life.
One of the most common causes of brownout is boredom. Employees who aren’t challenged will eventually disengage. Even the best employees—true superstars—can lose their spark if they become bored.
So introduce some innovation in your life.
Whether it’s in your personal or professional life, take on a new project or goal. Pitch a new idea to your boss, enroll in an educational program, train for a marathon—whatever you do, shake things up.
If you’re an executive who knows his employees have disengaged, you need to be the one to introduce some innovation and an entrepreneurial mindset into your culture. Create a new product line, or tackle a new market.
Human beings need to be challenged. For our self-esteem, to grow and perform, to simply feel part of the society.
Otherwise, we eventually experience brownout.
3. If all else fails…you might need to move on. And that’s okay.
Here’s the reality: You may have outgrown your job. Or your employees may have outgrown their jobs. We all reach a point where we’ve maxed out our potential in our current position. If you’re the Head of Marketing at a regional manufacturer, your next challenge might come at a multinational company.
And if you’re that regional manufacturer with no aspirations of growing, it might be time to recognize that your Head of Marketing is looking for a challenge you just can’t provide.
Denying the existence of an uncomfortable truth doesn’t make that truth disappear. Instead, denial plants the seeds for future problems.
That’s why you need a truly strategic approach to your career. And if you’re a hiring manager, that’s why you need a strategic approach to finding your next great hire—the one who hasn’t maximized his or her potential at your company.
At Robertson Associates, we help our clients connect with leaders looking for their next big challenge.
Because life isn’t about just making it through your day.
It’s about making the most of your days.
Pierre Collowald is a Senior Partner at Robertson Associates, a European Executive Search and Leadership Solutions boutique. Pierre is working out of Brussels.