A Purpose.

Welcome to Renewals, a blog supporting my original research on workplace morale. If you are interested in:

  • preventing workplace toxicity and incivility (including bullying and mobbing),
  • increasing authentic collegiality and civility,
  • cultivating humane/empathetic leadership, and
  • supporting/re-centering the positive links of workplace wellness and career/job satisfaction –

in North American workplaces – welcome! This space also serves as a point of reference and resource for many of these topics, which are frequently discussed in research literature, spheres of commentary, and on social media platforms.

Participant data in my study revealed that low morale is the result of repeated and protracted exposure to emotional, verbal/written, and system abuse or neglect in the workplace. While my original study focuses on academic libraries, the response to my research has alerted me that the trajectory and outcomes of the experience may also apply to other library and workplace environments. As a result, I have expanded my research to public libraries, and general North American workplaces. I hope this outlet is helpful to anyone familiar with the experience.

My first few blogs reflect content I originally published at The Ink On The Page, a project I began in 2017. As this space develops, I will include original content focusing on my workplace morale-related research projects and other ideas and activities that spring from these efforts.

I have also created an online community (Renewers) for library employees who are familiar with low morale and who are interested in increasing balance and engagement at work and clarity in their careers.  Additionally, I am offering workshops and seminars for leaders and organizations who are committed to promoting and supporting these goals. Along with this blog, I hope Renewers in all kinds of careers are able to recognize, reduce, and resolve their experiences, return to a fuller sense of joy, and recapture purpose in their careers and workplaces. Moreover, I’d like to offer this space for sustained constructive dialogue on this important topic – let’s connect, create strategies, and fulfill positive outcomes for the long-term improvement of our professions.

All Best,

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P.S. You can keep up with my other research and news here!

 

 

 

Mentioned: burnout beginnings in LIS

Jade Geary and Brittany Hickey reveal the goals, methodology, and results of a unique study focusing on the relationship between working in libraries while pursing an MLIS (or equivalent) in  graduate school and the development of burnout once “formal” library work is obtained.  the 2017 low morale study is mentioned for positing burnout as a state related to workplace abuse and neglect.

Read the article.

Report: The Renewal Workshop at the NCLA Conference

Last week I facilitated a Renewal Workshop at the North Carolina Library Association’s Conference in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. The workshop was sponsored by NCLA’s Roundtable for Ethnic and Minority Concerns (REMCo), and I am thankful for their support. 

 

 

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Twelve folks (the maximum registrant limit for this event) registered, and there was a short waiting list; ultimately, eleven people attended the Workshop. Attendees represented a mix of public and academic libraries, and a range of specialties.  Workshop attendees are offered an opportunity to take two surveys: 

  • Pre-Workshop Questionnaire (basic demographics and impetus for joining the Workshop)
  • Low-Morale Experience Survey (exploring basic markers of a low-morale experience)

At the end of the workshop, I also circulated a evaluation form and aggregated attendee feedback. Following is a selection of data from the workshop (quantitative queries show majority responses only)

NOTE: This workshop was three hours; four hours is the standard time for a Renewal Workshop.

Pre-Workshop Questionnaire Highlights

  • Attendee Library Type
    • 66% Academic library
  • Represented areas of practice
    • 44% Administration
  • Career length
    • 50% 10 years or more
  • Goals for attending the Workshop
    • “How to integrate efforts/actions that will lead to a decrease in low morale among my colleagues into everyday practice.”
    • “I would like to make our library an environment where our employees feel supported and engaged.”
    • “Ability to better recognize low morale in my colleagues, particularly my managers.”
    • “To help identify what low morale looks like and how to educate my co-workers and friends; to raise awareness.”

 Low-Morale Experience Survey Highlights 

  • Length of low-morale experience
    • TIE: 40% 1 – 3 years; more than three years
  • Perpetrators of abuse
    • 80% Library supervisor(s) or manager(s)
    • TIE: 50% Library administrators; Library colleagues
  • Types of workplace abuse experienced:
    • 90% Emotional
    • 70% Verbal/written
    • 50% Negligence
  • Feelings experienced during low morale:
    • TIE: 90% Anger;  Frustration
    • TIE: 70% Disillusion; Sadness; Depression; Worry
    • 60% Shame
    • TIE: 50% Skepticism; Despair
  • What contributed to low-morale experience?
    • 80% Leadership styles
    • 60% Uncertainty/Mistrust
    • 50% Library/Librarian Perceptions
  • Behaviors noted/considered:
    • 90% A desire to change careers
    • TIE: 70% A decrease in professional engagement; Decreased willingness to collaborate
    • 50% Increased procrastination

Workshop Evaluation Report Highlights

Topics recommended for discussion/consideration:

“More time for audience contributions and discussion; what supervisor actions they can take.”

“Everything was addressed perfectly.”

Things learned or more clearly defined:

“I was able to give specific terms to what I had experienced.”

“The importance of self-preservation; I never considered this.”

“Different forms of leadership that lead to the LME – helped me recognize behaviors in my leaders and in myself.”

Recovery plans (personally or at work):

“I need to recognize that I am human and I may never get over my dealings with low morale, but I can work to get closer to a positive recovery.”

“I am seriously considering a career change. For now, I continue to read, draw, and attempt to enjoy my life as much as possible. I continue to hope the toxic leader will move on to another place – or better yet – learn how to lead and not abuse employees.”

“Do some more reading based on your resources, talk more, set better boundaries, have better language to describe what is happening.”

Formal/informal leadership behaviors that will be applied to reduce/remove low morale at work:

“Not being afraid to confront or address issues.”

“Share some of what I’ve learned, recognize others for their efforts, find out more the Employee Assistance Program so I can share it with co-workers who need it.”

“Oh my goodness … so many good thoughts/ideas were shared. I just need to figure out where to start.”

Other comments:

“Awesome workshop and very helpful!”

“This was so incredibly amazing & helpful!”

Thanks to the attendees who were engaged, courageous, and motivated to participate in the Workshop, and many thanks also to Jewel Davis, NCLA REMCo chair, who helped ensure this Workshop was offered to our colleagues.

Ready to host a Renewal Workshop? Contact me for a customized prospectus.

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Enrollment Open for January 2020 Low Morale Course

The third session of my course, “Deconstructing the Low-Morale Experience in Academic Libraries,” is now open for enrollment. The asynchronous course begins January 6 and runs through January 31, 2020. This course is hosted via Library Juice Academy.

NOTE: this course is open to anyone facing or recovering from low morale while working in any library environment.

First session: student-generated coursework (here and here)

First session: student-generated reading list

First session: student evaluations

Second session: student-generated reading list

Second session: student evaluations

Register now.

Report: Low Morale Spot Check (Public Libraries)

Soon after presenting my work on low morale in academic libraries, public librarians began sharing their experiences with me. I decided to expand my work to this group of information professionals, and last year I received a grant to complete that study. recently completed my draft , and I hope will be published next year. 

I was already collecting spot check data on academic librarians (the survey is still open here; read results here and here). I also began collecting public librarian data. This is the first result report from this group. The following summation reflects 21 responses.

  • 95% have witnessed or experienced low morale in a public library environment
  • 62% are working in public service roles (e.g., Reference, Children’s Services, etc.); 24% are managers
  • 81% indicate that their current workplace has low morale issues

When asked what low morale issues are concerning, they are highly individualized. Follows is a sampling of qualitative responses:

  • “racial issues, harassment of lower level staff. white power structures”
  • “High turnover of employees, resulting in constantly training new staff and starting from scratch with skill development. Lack of passion and engagement in our work, leading to declining customer service and innovation.”
  • “The main issue is a disconnect between our administration and the rest of the organization. The main issue really stems from our commission, who governs the system as a whole. Whatever they want, we do, which in theory makes sense, but we end up getting rushed into big projects/initiatives without much planning/thought. The intent is usually good, the execution not so much. Because of this, a lot of stress is put especially on public services to “do, do, do” with little direction or guidance, so that is where the low morale comes from.”
  • “Consistently short staffed, poor working conditions, high risk patron population, patron verbal abuse.”
  • “Management not caring about the employees. Being over worked, under paid, and under staffed. Managers threatening to fire workers when they come to them for help with problems. Being guilt tripped when calling in sick.”

This survey remains open, and I will occasionally share more results as I obtain more data.

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Mentioned: Diversity residencies

The 2017 low morale study and a presentation focusing on the Diversity Rhetoric Enabling System (connected to the low-morale experience for racial/ethnic minority academic librarians) is cited in a new book edited by Lorelei Rutledge, Jay L. Colbert, Anastasia Chiu, and Jason Alston. These editors have had direct experience with residencies designed to address persistent racial and ethnic diversity gaps in the Library and Information Science profession. 

Chiu

Mentioned: Abuse in the (LIS) Academy.

Dr. Nicole A. Cooke continues her discussion of and personal challenges facing experiences of workplace abuse and neglect as an African-American Library and Information Science (LIS) faculty member educator. She cites the 2017 low morale study while noting the coverage of workplace abuse and neglect in academic librarianship. She continues her counter-narrative, sharing a trajectory of her lived experiences and centering the impacts of workplace abuse and neglect in higher education, especially on racial and ethnic minorities in academia.

Read the full article.

(See Dr. Cooke’s earlier autoethnography here)

Enabling Systems for Public Librarians

 

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For the past two months, I have been working diligently to analyze participant data from my public librarian low morale study. Again, the results have validated the causes and general development and trajectory of low morale; however, the data also reveal that public librarians have more Enabling Systems (ES) to deal with as they face workplace abuse and neglect. 

Enabling Systems are individual behaviors or organizational cultures, structures, policies, or ethoses that inadvertently enforce or underpin low-morale experiences. In the 2017 low morale study of academic librarians, the original ES are: 

  • Uncertainty & Mistrust
  • Leadership
  • Faculty Status/Tenure & Promotion
  • Human Resources Limitations
  • Contagion
  • Staffing & Employment 

(Kendrick, 2017)

With the exception of Faculty Status/Tenure & Promotion (which is unique to the higher education industry), public librarians validated their engagement with the original ES. Additionally, they revealed seven more ES that are specific to public library environments. In total, public librarians navigate twelve systems that exacerbate their low-morale experiences. The ES are linked, and surround aspects of workplace safety,  library culture and organizational structure, policies and training, socioeconomic conditions, equity, diversity, and inclusion, and more. 

The manuscript currently is undergoing author-prompted peer-review, and I hope to submit it for official peer-review (and ultimately, publication acceptance) later this month. Please look forward to it.

Learn more about discovery of ES for racial/ethnic minority academic librarians here and here.

Works Cited

Kendrick, K.D. (2017). The low-morale experience of academic librarians: A phenomenological study. Journal of Library Administration, 57(8): 846-878. Retrieved from https://bit.ly/2Jdz7ak 

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