Are your employees on the border of “boredom and anxiety”?


I’ve recently finished reading,Flow, by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, which discusses how people can improve their lives by cultivating optimal experiences.  Flow is a state where people control their inner experiences, regardless of outward influences.  Many people describe flow as a state in which they loose all track of time in what they are doing because they enjoy it so much. People who experience flow report feeling “strong” “active” “creative” “concentrated” and “motivated”.

The author describes a flow experience as one where people are in-between the states of “boredom and anxiety” and postulates that in this state people are pushed to higher levels of performance and they actually enjoy it.

Based on the studies conducted by the author, people are more likely to experience flow at work that at leisure.  Here are some questions to ask yourself in considering whether the work people do for you leads to flow:

  1.  Does the work require above average challenges? Is it difficult, but accomplishable?
  2. Does the work require people to use above average skills? Does it give people an opportunity to develop skills?
  3. Does the work have built in goals?
  4.  Does the work provide feedback in performance?
  5.  Are there rules that govern the work?  Are there ways to keep the work from being too ambiguous?

These questions relate to what Hackman and Oldman site in Work Redesign as key factors in of reaching the outcomes of internal motivation, job satisfaction, performance quality, low absenteeism and low turnover:

Job Dimensions:

Skill Variety

Task Identity (How much of the work is completed by one person as a part of a process?)

Task Significance (Is the work important?)



Psychological States:

Experienced Meaningfulness

Felt Responsibility

Knowledge of Results

Growth Need Strength (Did this help me grow as an individual?)


When have you experienced flow at work and what were the key characteristics of what you were doing that led to this experience?

Mary Ila Ward

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