Lately much attention is being paid to the idea of a “Great Resignation” – people leaving their jobs in great numbers, and for a wide variety of reasons. The most often cited, according to this article, include retirement, relocation, reconsideration, reshuffling, and reluctance. The first two, retirement and relocation are self-explanatory. Reconsideration includes re-prioritizing balance in one’s life, and reconsidering the role and importance of work in one’s life. Many experts believe that the pandemic exacerbated this phenomenon, especially as people experienced different joys and challenges during the pandemic, forcing them to reconsider their options. Reshuffling refers to moving to different jobs in the same field or sector, or between sectors, and is often precipitated by a desire for better wages and/or working conditions. These are always a factor considered when people resign and move on. Finally, reluctance is offered as a contributing factor to the great resignation. Many people were/are reluctant to return to working in person. They have grown to appreciate the virtual environment, which can afford more autonomy, and less time commuting; they also felt safer at home during the pandemic. Reluctance led to some resignations.
Of these five reasons, the one I’d like to focus on more fully in this article is reconsideration, and its relationship to gifted individuals. I was recently browsing my Twitter feed when this article,
Bore-Out: A Challenge for Unchallenged Gifted (Young) Adults
caught my eye. Authored by Dr. Ellen Fiedler, Past President of the Michigan Association for Talented and Gifted, and Noks Nauta, an author who writes about topics pertaining to gifted adults and seniors, the article offered some insight into the great resignation from a gifted person’s point of view. Fiedler and Nauta describe “bore-out” (in the workplace) in this way: “When gifted adults enter the workplace, either for the first time or when changing jobs, they are often confronted with material they already know and a pace that’s too slow for them. Boredom can afflict gifted adults at work but also at home, in college classes, and even in social situations. When they trudge through life day after day without sufficient challenges, this can result in gifted adults suffering from bore-out. We also recognize it in gifted seniors. Bore-out is a condition that has only recently begun to be understood and may actually be the flip side of burnout, a well-known result of ongoing pressure and too much going on in their lives all at once.”
Though we have all probably read a great deal about burn-out, very little has been studied and written about bore-out, a condition which some believe afflicts many gifted individuals who crave variety, challenge, novelty, difficulty, and stimulation in their daily lives. Many who study
Vygotsky’s Zone of Proximal Development
understand that we do our best work when we are in “the zone,” the area where the work is not too difficult to cause great stress, and not too easy to allow boredom to occur. (When working with students, I often dubbed this The Goldilocks Zone - not too easy and not too hard - but just right). When we are in the “zone”, we are neither liable to burn-out nor bore-out.
Fiedler and Nauto describe burnout and bore-out as opposite ends of the stimulation spectrum, and postulate that many gifted young adults bore-out of unchallenging jobs and situations. They describe the symptoms of bore-out in this way: “Rather than pressure and stress from overstimulation, bore-out is related to understimulation. Two Swiss consultants, Rothlin and Werder (2008), were the first to publish a book,
Bore-Out!: Overcoming Workplace Demotivation,
about this condition. Ironically, the symptoms of bore-out surprisingly resemble those of burnout—exhaustion and a depressive mood—and so are often not recognized as coming from ongoing boredom.” Could it be that some gifted adults chose to join the great resignation as a result of bore-out, especially during a pandemic which limited other opportunities for creative outlets and self-fulfillment?
In her book,
The Gifted Adult,
Mary-Elaine Jacobsen (2000) talked to gifted adults about managing themselves on three specific dimensions related to giftedness: a need for intensity, complexity, and drive. These are characteristics which are highly associated with gifted adults. The word boredom also entered her research, as adults shared their need for satisfying their extreme curiosity and burning desire for information, their high energy levels, and their need for intensity, complexity, and drive in their lives and their work. Lacking it, many moved on.
Reading all of these articles got me thinking about the great resignation in a whole different way. Maybe reconsideration was a major factor, especially for gifted adults. Maybe many people were/are resigning from their jobs because of bore-out, and are reconsidering different ways to meet their unique needs. Maybe we educators and parents/caregivers need to help our young people learn to advocate for themselves and for their intellectual and social emotional needs, beginning as children and extending into adulthood. Probably the time to begin is NOW. Reconsidering how we help our young people may help them avoid a future personal resignation.
As always, I look forward to your thoughts. Together we grow.
Jackie Drummer, Past President and Current Board Advisor
WI Association for Talented and Gifted
(WATG would like to extend a huge thank you to Dr. Martha Aracely Lopez of Milwaukee Public Schools for translating this article into Spanish for our Spanish-speaking families and educators. The translation can also be found in our website blogs.)
Gifted in Perspective
A column designed to link the gifted perspective to other perspectives, and to make you think.