Malemployment, bore out, and the right to disconnect: a look at the New Worker Glossary

Welcome to A New Worker Glossary for a New World of Work – a living collection of words and phrases that shed light on the underside of work and the unshared experiences of workers.

We built this glossary to help expand our own understanding of how the future of work was playing out in the present. It started as a small collection of handwritten notes that captured the subtle shifts in our ‘future of work’ language over time. What then became evident was that much of our evolving discourse told an objective, exterior and structural story of work and its futures. Stories that by intention or otherwise, often depicted a homogeneous, techno-centric future of work, devoid of inhabitants (other than the necessary human resources of course).

Our growing future of work vocabulary, ideas and visions seldom spoke to the lived experience of its primary stakeholders, us, the workers. And so, the New Worker Glossary emerged, a collection of lesser-known terms that purposefully speaks worker. An artefact that helps to look below the seductive discourse around ‘the future of work,’ and elevate more of the fundamental issues experienced by works’ most important contributors.

Here are just some of the terms that you will find available in The New Worker Glossary.

Algorithmic management

The oversight, governance and control practices conducted by software algorithms over workers. Algorithmic management is characterised by  the  continuous tracking and evaluation of worker behaviour and performance, as well as automatic 04 implementation of algorithmic decisions. In algorithmic management practices, workers interact with a ‘system’ rather than with humans.1

Bore out

A psychological disorder that causes mental and physical illness as a result of a sustained ‘mental under-load’ in the workplace. Boreout typically consists of three elements: boredom, lack of challenge, and lack of interest. Symptoms of boreout are similar to burnout syndrome.2

Bullsh*t jobs

A form of paid employment that is considered pointless, unnecessary, or pernicious. Employees undertaking bullsh*t jobs ‘cannot justify its existence even though, as part of the conditions of employment, the employee feels obliged to pretend that is not the case’.3

Digital leash

The compulsion and/or expectation of workers to to answer calls, texts, emails etc., outside of regular office hours.4

Disguised unemployment

The underutilisation of labour in which businesses or entire economies employ workers who are not fully occupied; such as, workers not currently utilised to produce  goods  or  services  due  to  legal  or  social  restrictions  or  because the work is highly seasonal. (Also known as ‘labour hoarding’ – the retention of workers not needed for current production as an optimal  response  to  the  costs  firms face to re-hire).5

Job atomisation

The unbundling of secure jobs into task fragments that can then be outsourced to the on-demand economy at a lower cost.


Work that is insufficiently remunerated to live on, anti-social, precarious, physically and mentally unhealthy, contains substantial unpaid elements, is invasive, micromanaged and undignified/or sustains ‘in-work  poverty’. Malemployment 08 is also associated with the mismatch between skill requirements of the job and the education of the worker (a variant of underemployment).6

Right to disconnect

A (proposed) human right regarding the ability of people to disconnect from work and primarily not to engage in work-related electronic communications such as e-mails or messages during non-work hours.7

The precariat

An emerging class, comprising the rapidly growing number of people experiencing insecure work/jobs. Precariats move in and out of precarious work, have insecure incomes and apart from receiving immediate payment for their labour, do not receive other social guarantees (e.g., superannuation) of insecurity, moving in and out of jobs that give little meaning to their lives.8


The belief that work is not only necessary to economic production, but also the centerpiece of one’s identity and life’s purpose; and the belief that any policy to promote human welfare must always encourage more work (See also ‘total work’).9

The New Worker Glossary is a living artefact. We want to crowdsource new entries over time. So, if and when you come across a term that you think is relevant to the futures of workers, please send it our way or click on the link ad add it to the comments. We’ll add you (if you want) to the list of contributors.

This is an edited version of a post that first appeared on Work Futures Unpolished and has been republished here with permission. You can access the full New Worker Glossary here.


1 Mohlmann& Zalmanson (2017) Hands on the Wheel: Navigating Algorithmic Management and Uber Drivers’ Autonomy

2 Urban Dictionary (2018) Boreout. Wikipedia. Boreout Werder (2007) Diagnose Boreout

3 Welcome to the Jungle (2019). Bullshit Jobs: A Theory by David Graeber.

4 Inspiring Workplaces (2018) Are we on a digital leash? What are the solutions?

5 Felices (2003). Assessing the Extent of Labour Hoarding. Bank of England Quarterly Bulletin

6 Caplan (2013). A Primer on Malemployment.

7 Wikipedia. Right to Disconnect

8 Guy Standing (2011) The Precariat: The New Dangerous Class

9 Thompson (2019). Workism Is Making Americans Miserable

Feature image source: Shutterstock

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