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Boredom is a real trial for those who experience it: nothing happens except time passing. Fisher (1993) presents it as “a transient affective state in which the individual feels a pervasive lack of interest in the current activity” (p. 396). According to Johnsen (2016), boredom is deeply rooted in organisations as a result of the progressive development of administrative tasks and time management in Western societies.
As a result, boredom is considered with ambivalence in organisational settings: shameful (because it is taboo and therefore difficult to study) and yet widely present in employees’ daily lives (Gemmill & Oakley, 1992). Indeed, employees affected by boredom prefer to internalise their emotions rather than express them because this time spent daydreaming contradicts the imperative of competitiveness that prevails in organisations (Baumann, 2016). However, boredom remains a widespread, subjective experience (Tardieu, 2013 [1913]), and therefore represents a central issue for managers (in terms of employee performance, attendance and commitment) and for employees themselves (in terms of well-being, mental health and personal effectiveness).
Whether in a school setting where it has been highly studied (Acee & al., 2010; Tze, Klassen & Daniels, 2014) or in a professional setting (Van Hooff & Van Hooft, 2014), boredom does not get good press. Recently, numerous press articles and specialised books have focused on “bore-out”, or burnout syndrome due to boredom (Rothlin & Werder, 2008; Bourion, 2015; Baumann, 2016)…


Business meetings are so essential for providing the structure of the social space that they are considered in management as vital places for making decisions and sharing information. Whether through tradition, through the influence of participative management or by the absence of an alternative, business meetings occupy the organisational space, sometimes reaching the pathological excess of “meeting-itis”. While many attack business meetings by calling into question their usefulness or effectiveness, this article aims to study the subjective views of meeting participants. Often unavoidable, at least in part, boredom is one of the major affective states that arises in mismanaged meetings. In this paper, boredom is particularly examined to highlight its potential consequences, which go beyond a simple impact on the efficiency of the meeting itself. Based on interviews with participants in various organisational settings, this research has three points of focus. Firstly, by identifying the different conditions for the emergence of boredom in meetings, we study how boredom is experienced, in an attempt to overcome the taboo that results in difficulty acknowledging boredom and even more difficulty in verbalising it. Secondly, we highlight the profoundly dual nature of boredom: when boredom is felt over long periods, it becomes harmful and destructive, whereas in the case of short periods, boredom is considered a moment to breathe and a spark for creativity. Together, these two points allow us to draw managerial implications to make “the most use of boredom” when facilitating business meetings.

  • bore-out
  • creativity
  • destruction
  • boredom
  • business meeting.
Thomas Simon
PhD Scholar & Lecturer
ESCP Business School
79, avenue de la République – 75011 – Paris
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