A Purpose.

Welcome to Renewals, a blog discussing low morale in academic libraries. This blog supports my work on this topic and also serves as a point of reference and resource for those who have faced or are currently experiencing low morale in academic library environments. This space is also for anyone who is concerned about preventing workplace abuse. By the way, because of my study’s definition of low morale, I use the terms workplace abuse, workplace neglect, and low morale interchangeably.

Participant data in my study revealed that low morale is the result of repeated and protracted exposure to emotional, verbal/written, and systemic abuse or neglect in the workplace. While my study focuses on academic libraries, the general response to my research has alerted me that the trajectory and outcomes of the experience may also apply to other library environments. I hope this outlet is also helpful to anyone to whom this applies.

My first few blogs reflect content I originally published at The Ink On The Page, a project I began last year. As this space develops, I will include original content focusing on my 2017 study,  my forthcoming study centering on the low -morale experiences of racial and ethnic minority academic librarians, and other ideas and projects that spring from these works.

I have also created an online community for academic librarians who are familiar with low-morale (Renewers).  Along with this space, I hope Renewers are able to recognize, reduce, and resolve their experiences, return to a fuller sense of joy, and recapture purpose in their careers and communities of service. 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 profession.

All Best,

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

 

 

 

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From the Course: Course Evaluations

This post is the final part of a four-part series of items I’m sharing from the first session of my course, “Deconstructing the Low-Morale Experience in Academic Libraries,” which was offered via Library Juice Academy in October 2018. (see Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3)

Following are some summarized results of the course evaluation. The evaluation was voluntary with 54% of participants responding.

What expectations were met during this course?

I’ve learned a lot more about toxic behaviors and coping methods. I hadn’t really thought about cope methods and their importance in the process of dealing with toxic environments. This was eye-opening and will shape my research in the future.”

“To explore my low morale experiences in my library and to figure out ways to combat them.”

I now better understand my low morale experiences and have some answers on how to lessen their impact.

Share any items you wish were covered in this course.

I think this course was comprehensive and well-planned. I really enjoyed the [practical interview]. I think more [interviews] should be included with people working to bring mindfulness and non-toxic behaviors into the library.”

I think this course covered a lot in such a short period of time. I liked the videos of both the instructor and the TED talks.”

Share something that you learned in this course or a concept that was defined more clearly as a result of this course.

“Coping models and methods – this topic is amazing.”

“I’ve learned it really is abuse, even if the abuse isn’t yelling or physical threat, and I understand why some co-workers are acting the way they do, or at least I have a hypothesis that makes sense to me based on what I see at work. I really appreciated learning about the many different forms abuse can take, especially the quieter and less obvious ones, because I was surprised to discover how many applied to my situation. I also liked the space to work through for myself what might help in my situation, and I appreciate that the course didn’t immediately go into pat answers that won’t work.”

“[T]he work on shame and shame screens was really deep and impactful. I could go much deeper into that work.”

Please share if any mental or emotional impacts of low-morale improved – even incrementally – as a result of this course.

“One part of this course asked us to think about previous toxic managers of behaviors we’ve worked with….how we felt and how we healed. I hadn’t really thought about that previously. Kaetrena showed us how to work through those emotions in a healthy way. We stated what happened – how we coped – next steps. For me, it really highlighted all of the ways I was abused in the workplace and how I came out stronger from the other end.”

“Yes, I’ve been working on trying not to let the low morale pull me down too but with this course, I’ve been able to put some things into perspective. For example, I never really connected all of my health issues as being a direct result of the work environment.”

Because I better understand what is going on and can recognize abuse when I see it, I feel I have a little more control and can better regulate my emotions. I can see that although the situation is bad, the perpetrators are acting out of their own insecurities and needs, as am I.”

How has this course impacted your career outlook and/or your approach to your daily librarianship practice?

“The low-morale experience is not a simple matter; it is serious. And at the first signs I must do something to not let it grow.

“I now have a few options for first steps I can take that I had not thought of before.”

What are your immediate plans to continue your positive recovery (personally and/or at work)?

“Meditation, communicating clearly, and setting boundaries.”

“I am going to continue learning about the subject and seeing how it applies to me and my workplace. As mentioned earlier, I’m trying to re-engage at work. I am also working on refraining from responding negatively to provocations. Eventually, I’d like to start a conversation about civility that goes beyond my support group.”

“To clarify boundaries between work & personal life.”

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From the Course: Suggested Readings from Students

This post is the third part of a four-part series of items I’m sharing from the first session of my course, “Deconstructing the Low-Morale Experience in Academic Libraries,” which was offered via Library Juice Academy in October 2018. (see Part 1, Part 2)

Throughout the course, students shared readings that are helping them change their work culture or better understand issues related to low-morale (i.e., burnout, vocational awe, emotional labor, etc.).

A full list of suggested items coming from the inaugural course follows. 

Anders, Ö. (2018). “What does “learning organization” mean?”, The Learning Organization, 25(3): 150-158. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1108/TLO-02-2018-0016

Ellinger, A. D., & Bostrom, R. P. (2002). An examination of managers’ beliefs about their roles as facilitators of learning. Management Learning, 33(2): 147-179.

Emmelhainz, C., Pappas, E. & Seale, M. (2017). Behavioral expectations for the mommy librarian: The successful reference transaction as emotional labor. In T. Accardi (Ed.) The feminist reference desk: Concepts, critiques, and conversations. Retrieved from https://escholarship.org/uc/item/2mq851m0

Fowler, R. (1998). The University Library As Learning Organization for Innovation: An Exploratory Study. College & Research Libraries, 59(3): 220-231. doi: https://doi.org/10.5860/crl.59.3.220

Meulemans, Y.N. & Carr, A. (2012). Not at your service: Building genuine faculty-librarian partnerships. Reference Services Review, 41(1): 80-90. Retrieved from https://ils.unc.edu/courses/2013_fall/inls502_001/Readings/Meulemans.pdf

Sinclair, N. T. (2017). Building a learning organization in a public library, Journal of Library Administration, 57(6): 683-700, doi: https://doi.org/10.1080/01930826.2017.1291183

Thanks to my students for sharing these with the community!

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The Strangler: Anger.

“I have a lot of anger about the way that she has been treating me through this period. Um…and that is not conducive to my best work. But if I don’t do my best work, I know she’s just going to come down on me harder. ” – Low morale study participant (Male, acquisitions librarian)

“…[I]t was really hard to get [my work] done. It was hard to concentrate, it was hard to motivate myself to do even the most basic parts of my job. I really struggled with that. And I struggled with, well, I mean – I was so busy stewing in my anger and resentment that I didn’t really care whether I did the job or not.” – Low morale study participant (Female, cataloging/metadata librarian)

 “I mean, it’s very hard to get up and come into work in the morning. It’s very hard not to be angry throughout the day, and I have to work really hard at, you know, just keeping a smile on my face and, you know, being friendly to the students whom I like very much.” – Low morale study participant (Female, reference and instruction librarian)

“I was angry about what wasn’t  hap- what people were doing and what people didn’t do, myself because I knew that there was noth- no one was going to do anything, there was nothing I could do to change the situation, and that the institution that I had trusted for so long basically had, you know, blindsided me and really revealed itself as something that I – as an institution that I couldn’t trust or believe in.” – Low morale study participant (Male, reference and instruction librarian)

“…the anger lasted much longer than the fear, and I can’t even say that it totally went away, ‘cause every time I think about it, I find myself getting angry again.” – Low morale study participant (Male, library administrator)

Looking at the original study’s very raw qualitative data, the words angry or anger appear over 100 times. From the selected statements that open this post, what is revealed is not only the feeling that is experienced, but the effects the feeling has on daily practice, the perception of relationships with colleagues and library users, and the impacts on mental health. You can also see how this emotion passes through several themes and impact factors of the low-morale experience via:

  • kinds of abuse (e.g., systemic abuse, negligence)
  •  cognitive behaviors (e.g., work avoidance, perfectionism)
  • Uncertainty/Mistrust
  • Leadership

Data analysis also showed that anger (and its iterations, e.g. annoyance through rage) was often contextualized as the gateway emotion leading to other negative feelings, including fear, depression, hopelessness, and disappointment.  Moreover, anger was the feeling that many participants re-lived the most – it was often the emotion driving vivid recollections of their experiences.

In this way, anger acts as a noose, constricting the targets’ emotional resiliency during a low-morale experience and negatively impacting their mental and physical resiliency during and long after the experience has ended. 

Health literature underscores the negative effects of anger. In his review, Suinn (2001) notes that anger:

  • increases likelihood of physical illnesses, including asthma, liver disease, and rheumatoid arthritis;
  •  impairs the immune system which also increases likelihood of and more importantly, the length of illness; 
  • prolongs physical wound healing (a nod to impaired cellular functioning); 
  • heightens perceptions of pain;  
  • increases cholesterol levels; and
  • increases likelihood of fatalities caused by cardiovascular disease (usually from long-term atherosclerosis – hardening of the arteries).

Suinn also summarizes the cognitive mechanisms that are most often associated with anger, among them:

  • the emotional arousal surrounding the behaviors of vigilance and scanning (in my study, “Uncertainty/Mistrust” and markers of perfectionism are the best matches).
  • the gateway into lowered self-care or decreased positive health behaviors (e.g. negative coping strategies)
  • lack of support structures or the presence of relationship conflicts (in my study, enabling systems of Human Resources Limitations, Tenure/Promotion, and Staffing/Employment).

Recognizing and giving a name to anger – in all of its guises – is particularly important in the low morale experience, because being able to do so may lead to the emotion being positively channeled to spur low morale sufferers to action. This feeling of purpose may loosen the vice-like grip of anger and lessen the impact of the related emotions that arrive after it. After being suddenly derailed on a sorely needed staffing hire, one participant shared,

I let my anger turn into determination, and I really did, I just kept really good statistics, kept track of what was happening, interviewed people who would like team up to use the service when [problem employees] were asleep in the middle of the night or something like that, you know, I tried to keep logs of what was going on and information about what other practices were happening out in the field. And I did, I eventually wrote a report and shared it with my supervisor at the time, and then, once we got a new administration in place, with the new administrators who came. And eventually I was able to get them to realize that most of the services like this are not 24 hours, and definitely not with [this traditionally unreliable employee pool]. And so I was able to get some of those things changed but it took a couple of years. – Low morale participant (Female, media and information services librarian)

If anger was part of your low-morale experience, what “level” was it? Annoyance? Irritation? Fury? What emotions showed up with it – or after it? How does it impact your memory of the experience? How have you dealt with it? Share if or how you were able to channel it to your benefit.

Works Cited

Suinn, R.M. (2001). The terrible twos – anger and anxiety: Hazardous to your health. American Psychologist, 56(1): 27-36.

 

From the Course: Student Rendering of Low-Morale, #2

This post is the second part of a four-part series of items I’m sharing from the first session of my course, “Deconstructing the Low-Morale Experience in Academic Libraries,” which was offered via Library Juice Academy in October 2018. (see Part 1)

NOTE: Items from the course that are shared here are done so with written permission from the student.

In the course’s third week, students were encouraged to focus on how the 2017 study’s themes or Enabling Systems manifested in their experience. Students are able to use narrative or aesthetic outputs to share their responses. Following are Victoria Hernández’s detailed charts outlining:

  1. Types of abuse she experienced (namely, verbal/written abuse, system abuse, and negligence) and 
  2. The impacts of the abuse and which coping strategies and mitigation methods she used to resolve her low-morale experience.
Diapositiva1 - Hernandez
Credit: Victoria Hernández, 2018. Used with permission.
CopingMItigation - Hernandez
Credit: Victoria Hernández, 2018. Used with permission.

From the Course: Student Rendering of Low-Morale, #1

This post is the first part of a four-part series of items I’m sharing from the first session of my course, “Deconstructing the Low-Morale Experience in Academic Libraries,” which was offered via Library Juice Academy in October 2018.

NOTE: Items from the course that are shared here are done so with written permission from the student.

During the course, students were encouraged to focus on how the 2017 study’s themes manifested in their experience. Students may use narrative or aesthetic outputs to share their responses. Below is Amanda Leftwich’s rendering, which summarizes “some of the negligent behaviors [she has] encountered at various libraries as an employee.”

Leftwich WordCloud
Credit: Amanda Leftwich, 2018. Used with permission.

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Study Invitation: Low Morale in Public Librarians

A recent study reveals that low morale is the result of repeated and protracted exposure to emotional, verbal/written, and systemic abuse or neglect in the workplace (Kendrick 2017; access study information at http://bit.ly/2yk5lc0). Recent commentary and scholarship centering expanding job duties and library services, mission creep, and funding concerns — along with a dearth of research focusing on workplace dynamics and behaviors that cause low morale  in public library environments — highlight the need to discover other factors that may impact low morale development for this group.

If you are 1) a credentialed librarian who 2) works or has worked in a North American public library and 3) who has faced low morale as defined above, you are invited to participate in a study exploring:

  1. differences in the emotional paths and impacts of low morale environments on  credentialed public librarians in North America, 
  2. The relationship(s) between environmental triggers, emotional paths, and biological changes stemming from working in low morale environments, and
  3. How these relationships, paths, and biological changes are identified, reduced, or resolved through various cognitive, physical, or other processes and actions.

This study is being investigated by Kaetrena Davis Kendrick (Associate Professor, Associate Librarian, University of South Carolina Lancaster).

If you choose to participate, I will conduct a telephone interview with you that will last 45-60 minutes, and you will also be asked to complete a brief survey which should only take 5-6 minutes to complete. Survey responses will be anonymous and kept separately from interview responses. Interviews will be confidential and participants will not be identified personally.

Participation in this study is completely voluntary. If you are interested in participating, please contact me directly by phone or email to set up a telephone appointment. If you know of anyone else who might be eligible and who is interested in participating, please feel free to forward this invitation to them.

Principal Investigator contact information:

Kaetrena Davis Kendrick: 803-313-7061; kaetrena@mailbox.sc.edu

If you have questions about this study, you may contact the researcher at the contact points listed above. If you have questions or concerns about your rights as a participant in this research study, you may contact the University of South Carolina’s Office of Research Compliance at 803-777-7095.

Thanks for your interest in and support of this study.

Kaetrena Davis Kendrick, M.S.L.S.

Works Cited

Kendrick, K.D. (2017). The low-morale experience of academic librarians: A phenomenological study. Journal of Library Administration, 57(8): 846-878.

Study Invitation: Low Morale in Business and Nonprofit Organization Employees

Are you a current or past employee of a North American- based public- or private- sector business or nonprofit organization who has faced low morale in your workplace? If so,  you are invited to participate in a study exploring:

  1. differences in the emotional paths and impacts of low morale environments on corporate or nonprofit employees, 
  2. The relationship(s) between environmental triggers, emotional paths, and biological changes stemming from working in low morale environments, and
  3. How these relationships, paths, and biological changes are identified, reduced, or resolved through various cognitive, physical, or other processes and actions.

Traditional research on low morale points to issues centering recognition at work, social support, respect at work, work-life balance, and more (Brun & Cooper 2009, pp. 8-9); but more recent qualitative research reveals that low morale is the result of repeated and protracted exposure to emotional, verbal/written, and systemic abuse or neglect in the workplace (Kendrick 2017; access study information at http://bit.ly/2yk5lc0)

This study is being investigated by Kaetrena Davis Kendrick (Associate Professor, University of South Carolina Lancaster).

 To participate in this study, you:

  1. Are a current or past employee of a North American public- or private-sector business or nonprofit organization and
  2. Believe you have experienced low morale as defined by Kendrick (in bold above),

If you choose to participate, I will conduct a telephone interview with you that will last 45-60 minutes, and you will also be asked to complete a brief survey which should only take 5-6 minutes to complete. Survey responses will be anonymous and kept separately from interview responses. Interviews will be confidential and participants will not be identified personally.

Participation in this study is completely voluntary. If you are interested in participating, please contact me directly by phone or email to set up a telephone appointment. If you know of anyone else who might be eligible and who is interested in participating, please feel free to forward this invitation to them.

Principal Investigator contact information:

Kaetrena Davis Kendrick: 803-313-7061; kaetrena@mailbox.sc.edu

If you have questions about this study, you may contact the researcher at the contact points listed above. If you have questions or concerns about your rights as a participant in this research study, you may contact the University of South Carolina’s Office of Research Compliance at 803-777-7095.

Thanks for your interest in and support of this study.

Kaetrena Davis Kendrick, M.S.L.S.

Works Cited

Brun, J. & Cooper, C. (2009). Missing pieces: 7 ways to improve employee well-being and organizational effectiveness. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan. 

Kendrick, K.D. (2017). The low-morale experience of academic librarians: A phenomenological study. Journal of Library Administration, 57(8): 846-878.