New research looks at How to manage people with a boring job

How to manage people with a boring job – 4 key strategies

How to manage someone with a boring job

How to manage people with a boring job

How many times have you heard someone say “I hate my job”? When you look at it this is often down to the fact that they have one of the increasing numbers of boring jobs. In this article, which follows on from my last post How to manage people who do boring repetitive jobs  I look at what the research says about the 4 big things you can do to mange people better who have boring jobs.

Job rotation

In the university catering services studied in this research looking at how to manage people with a boring job, there were a large number of semi-skilled repetitive roles in places like coffee shops and restaurants. All the employees tend to be rotated through the different roles every day. One day a person may be working on the till in the coffee shop – the next they may be at the washing machine. Indeed, the researchers found that often workers had to move from one role to another as their shift progressed to match need. This variety it appears to contribute to the motivation and lack of boredom among the staff.

However, the story doesn’t end there. What the researchers found was that staff are constantly having to make decisions about where the need is at any particular moment.

Management involvement

Another thing that helped motivate the staff was that management in these settings are usually operational, in that aren’t afraid to get their hands dirty when the staff are under pressure and they usually show willing to lend a hand. It was found that all of the staff observed their managers working at whatever station required them, due to a backlog for example. This operational ‘hands on’ management approach served to motivate the staff, and reduce any perceptions of ‘us and them’ between the staff and the managers.

This effect doesn’t occur where managers won’t / don’t get involved operationally. Additionally it was found that this approach to management gave the managers a much better appreciation of the issues staff face, which in turn enabled them to manage better.

The researchers found that in these types of environment the managers tend to be less distanced from the work and as a result were almost always more positive with their staff, offering encouragement on a daily basis for example. This close connection of the managers to the work has a significantly positive psychological impact on the workers.

Professional development

Additionally, the researchers found that where there is a continual involvement in often small professional development processes for the staff, this significantly correlated with higher levels of motivation.

Customer contact

One of the big differences between catering and factory work is that catering staff have a lot of contact with the customers. In effect they could see the immediate effect of their actions on the customers  and this has been found to further increase the level of staff motivation and develop a service attitude.

Conclusions – How to manage people with a boring job

This study provides a number of useful conclusions about the environmental aspects of good job design and management practice. Things like:

  • Having direct contact with the customers with a problem solving orientation
  • Job rotation based on needs and the ability to decide where the need lies
  • Having a positive management team who are close to the work and are prepared to roll their sleeves up and help when necessary
  • Continual professional development, even small things like ‘show and tell’ or 10 minute briefings or discussions

all contribute to getting rid of the boredom factor altogether and to motivate people even in more repetitive roles.


Reference – available to members

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David Wilkinson

David Wilkinson is the Editor-in-Chief of the Oxford Review. He is also acknowledged to be one of the world's leading experts in dealing with ambiguity and uncertainty and developing emotional resilience. David teaches and conducts research at a number of universities including the University of Oxford, Medical Sciences Division, Cardiff University, Oxford Brookes University School of Business and many more. He has worked with many organisations as a consultant and executive coach including Schroders, where he coaches and runs their leadership and management programmes, Royal Mail, Aimia, Hyundai, The RAF, The Pentagon, the governments of the UK, US, Saudi, Oman and the Yemen for example. In 2010 he developed the world's first and only model and programme for developing emotional resilience across entire populations and organisations which has since become known as the Fear to Flow model which is the subject of his next book. In 2012 he drove a 1973 VW across six countries in Southern Africa whilst collecting money for charity and conducting on the ground charity work including developing emotional literature in children and orphans in Africa and a number of other activities. He is the author of The Ambiguity Advanatage: What great leaders are great at, published by Palgrave Macmillian. See more: About: About David Wikipedia: David's Wikipedia Page