Employee Engagement Motivation Wellness

Diving Deeper into Rust Out: The Employee Perspective

The term ‘burnout’ is widely recognised in the world of work. However, its quieter cousin, “rust out”, is a phenomenon that’s less talked about but equally as impactful. For many employees, rust out can feel like being trapped in a monotonous loop, yearning for challenges and longing for meaningful engagement. Following our previous article, Rust Out in the Workplace: Recognising and Addressing Disengagement, let’s look at the landscape of rust out from an employee’s viewpoint and explore ways you can navigate this experience.

The Emotional Experience of Rust Out

  1. Feeling Undervalued: One of the strongest emotions associated with rust out is the feeling of not being appreciated or valued. You might feel that your capabilities exceed the tasks you are given.
  2. Desire for Growth: A constant yearning to learn, expand horizons, and push boundaries, but feeling stifled by the current role or environment.
  3. A Sense of Stagnation: The dread of sameness, where days blend into one another, and there’s a palpable lack of excitement or anticipation for the day’s tasks.
  4. Diminished Passion: Over time, the job or role that was once a source of pride and enthusiasm becomes merely a means to an end.
  5. Frustration and Resignation: A combination of frustration over not being utilised fully and a resignation to the status quo, leading to diminished effort and commitment.

Warning Signs of Rust Out

  1. Lack of Motivation: A pronounced dip in the eagerness to start the day or take on tasks.
  2. Avoidance Behaviour: Procrastinating more than usual or taking longer breaks to escape the monotony.
  3. Reduced Social Interaction: Diminished interest in interacting with colleagues or participating in workplace events.
  4. Feedback Seeking: Constantly seeking feedback, hoping for new challenges or validation that your skills matter.
  5. Desire for Change: Feeling the need for a new project, role, or environment.

Navigating Out of Rust Out

  1. Self-awareness: Recognise and acknowledge feelings of rust out. Understanding your emotions is the first step towards addressing them.
  2. Open Communication: Schedule a discussion with your manager or HR to express feelings and aspirations. Be clear about your desire for growth or change.
  3. Seek Learning Opportunities: Even if the current role feels restrictive, look for online courses, workshops, or seminars. Upskilling can be a gateway to new responsibilities.
  4. Network: Engage with colleagues, industry peers, or join professional associations. Networking can lead to new opportunities and insights.
  5. Self-care: Engage in activities outside of work that stimulate the mind and soul. This could be a new hobby, reading, or even travel. External stimulation can often offset feelings of stagnation at work.
  6. Consider a Change: If all efforts within the current organisation do not yield desired results, it might be time to consider a new role or even a new organisation that aligns better with your personal and professional growth aspirations.

Rust out can be a silent struggle, leading to feelings of entrapment and unfulfillment. However, with self-awareness, proactive communication, and a desire for growth, you can chart a path out of rust out and reignite your professional passion.

Author: Ros Cardinal, Shaping Change.

If you feel you need some support to navigate the challenges of Rust Out, coaching can help. You can schedule a 30-minute, complimentary conversation with Ros here.

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