Could someone suggest a cool word or expression for someone who is tired at work?

Such a person is not doing his job properly and is waiting to quit; basically, he is not interested in his job and doesn't like the management that he is working for.

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    We used to call those guys potted plants, since all you could do with them at work is put them near the window to catch the sun and nothing else. Of course, this A) sounded better in Hebrew, and B) was extremely localized in the first place, so I wouldn't presume to suggest it as an actual word that's in use. :) – Avner Shahar-Kashtan Jun 13 '12 at 5:08
  • I think you're asking about someone who is tired of his job, possibly burned-out through overwork, but no longer really interested, perhaps bored, only doing the minimum necessary to get paid, waiting either to retire or be made redundant. Is that right? There is a word or phrase for someone in that position, but I can't remember what it is... – Andrew Leach Jun 13 '12 at 6:49
  • @Abdrew. Thats right. Not sure if burned up and burnout are the same? – Noah Jun 13 '12 at 9:41
  • They're not the same - the adjective form of burnout would presumably be burned out, although I would usually instead say that someone was suffering from burnout. Also, I like the potted plant description. You might have to follow it up with an explanation, but it's very clever. – MrTheWalrus Jun 13 '12 at 18:57
  • "Public school teacher"? I kid, I kid ... mostly. – hunter2 Jul 5 '13 at 7:54

10 Answers 10


Well burned out is a good term.

You could also say you are exhausted both physically and mentally. But you could sum that up with frazzled.

exhaust physically or emotionally

Now someone who is over the edge and is openly expressing their frazzledness is jaded.

noun: an old or over-worked horse

verb: get tired of something or somebody

verb: exhaust or tire through overuse or great strain or stress

Now these two terms - frazzled and jaded - are terms on how someone would describe you. You would not usually say you are frazzled or jaded... well maybe but not unless you are talking amongst good friends or a shrink.

You would say, "I am fed-up!"

Or "Take this job and shove it!"

Or "Fuck this shit!"

Or "I can't stand it!"

But then we would describe you as hostile.

There are so many words to describe this because there are so many in the apathetic boat.

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An office squatter can be a person who just takes up space at the office, without doing anything of apparent value. Their lack of motivation may be because of burnout.

I've also heard these people referred to as deadwood employees.

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I've heard such people referred to as "time-servers", They're just serving out their time!

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I've heard the term clock-watcher used to describe people who keep one eye on the clock each day, eagerly awaiting quitting time (which can never arrive too soon). Collins says:

clock-watcher: an employee who checks the time in anticipation of a break or of the end of the working day.

It's not a precise fit, because not all clock watchers are disinterested in their job and unhappy with management. But many such disgruntled employees cope by becoming clock-watchers.

So, maybe disgruntled is a better fit? Obviously, disgruntled can be applied to more than just laborers who are unhappy at work (disgruntled spouse, disgruntled fans, e.g.), but the word is used in that context very often. If you scan through the usage examples on the right-hand side of the Wordnik page, you'll see that, more often than not, the word is being used to describe someone unhappy with their job.

disgruntle: To make discontented or dissatisfied; to disappoint; to throw into a state of sulky dissatisfaction: usually in the participial adjective disgruntled.

P.S. You asked for a word or expression – maybe disgruntled clockwatcher could work?

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Someone who merely attends work and doesn’t make any significant effort could be said to be coasting along.

But I’d say there’s a distinction between being burned out (per the question title) and not interested (per the body text). One can be interested in one’s work and become burned out by over-exertion or stress; equally many people make a living without getting burned out in jobs they don’t necessarily find interesting.

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  • I think you've made a good observation – one that makes this question especially hard to answer. After all, if I were to suggest a good word or phrase for someone who is "burned out" at work, I'd suggest "burned out." :^) – J.R. Jun 17 '12 at 19:18

How about "The working dead" (play on "The Walking Dead")?

This pun is used from time to time. The term in quotes returns many hits on Google, one of which is the title of a column at Salary.com:

The Working Dead: 7 Ways to Avoid Becoming an Office Zombie

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If the person works in an office, they are a seat-warmer or office drone. However, it is not necessary to be a burnout to achieve this status.

Particularly in the north of England, someone who does as little work as possible may be called a shirker, lead-swinger or skiver.

In the USA, slacker is in common use (as is the catch-all term lazy bum.)

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If someone were reading about said person in a book by Chaucer or Dickens, that person would certainly be going through the doldrums of work/life.

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I've been in this position in a job I hated that was mind numbingly boring. I would have referred to myself as zombiefied, but I guess that's not a very good specific term when referring to someone else.

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You want a cool word? Call the person a Meursault—the paragon of indifference and detachment.

In Camus's The Stranger, he says this famous opening line: "Mother died today. Or, maybe, yesterday; I can't be sure."

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