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.
P.S. You can keep up with my other research and news here!
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
- Faculty Status/Tenure & Promotion
- Human Resources Limitations
- Staffing & Employment
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.
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
Since April 2018, I have been collecting stories of low-morale experiences from library employees from all kinds of libraries. The project, called “Share Your Story,” allows people a space to write down as much (or as little) about their most impactful incidents of workplace abuse and neglect as they want to; additionally, they are able to identify any emotional and cognitive effects or mental/physical health impacts stemming from low morale. Many have stated that reflecting on their experience is helpful to them, and they also remark that they hope their stories help others understand they are not alone in having this experience.
The qualitative statements in this project are highly individualized and sometimes I share these case studies in the Renewers Facebook group. Following are the quantitative results of this project at press time (64 responses). If you would like to participate, the portal remains open. I will occasionally share updates as more responses are collected.
- 34% of respondents are mid-career librarians/archivists; 33% are new librarians/archivists; 31% are experienced librarians/archivists.
- 66% are currently dealing with low-morale.
- 40% of these incidents are happening at four-year public colleges/universities; 16% are happening at four-year private colleges/universities; 9% are happening at urban/metropolitan-based public libraries.
- 84% of respondents experienced emotional abuse; 73% experienced negligence; 51% experienced system abuse; 44% experienced verbal/written abuse.
- 75% of abuse was perpetrated by managers/supervisors; 69% was perpetrated by library administrators; 49% was perpetrated by colleagues.
- During their experiences:
- 75% noted reduced productivity
- 66% increased their procrastination on projects
- 58% avoided co-workers (even those whom they used to be close to)
- 50% were absent from work more often
- 45% rejected committee or service work
- 44% were late to work more often
- 42% rejected or reduced outreach and collaboration opportunities
- 41% created rigid work schedules or protocols (e.g., “I only do what’s required”)
- Respondents reported the following emotional reactions/impacts of their low-morale experiences:
- 89% Anger (this includes the spectrum of anger – from minor irritation to rage)
- 81% Sadness
- 81% Disappointment
- 75% Despair
- 64% Confusion
- 55% Shame
- 48% Embarrassment
- 47% Shock
- As a result of their experiences, respondents most often developed
- 55% Anxiety
- 48% Sleep disorders
- 32% Clinical depression
- 30% Gastrointestinal disorders
- 25% noted that the experience exacerbated symptoms of previously diagnosed conditions
- The most popular coping strategies are:
- 84% Talking with others
- 48% Mental activities (e.g., mindfulness, meditation)
- 46% Formal counseling
- 43% Self-talk
- The most popular mitigation methods are:
- 75% Looking for a new job
- 31% Talking with Human Resources
- 26% Leaving the LIS field
Ruth Kitchin Tillman has shared an intensely observational authoethnography of the challenges of repository work. Her piece starkly illuminates the affective impacts and practice outcomes of working with technology platforms that are constantly changing while trying to manage the professional (and also emotional) expectations of stakeholders invested in repository functionalities and the collections/objects they are curating.
Tillman suggests further reading and includes the 2017 low-morale study.
Read Tillman’s piece, “Repository Ouroboros.”
Library Journal’s Deimosa Webber-Rey interviewed me about the low morale study focusing on racial and ethnic minority academic librarians. In the article, I discuss the specific impact factors that affect this group as they traverse the low-morale experience and share my ongoing concerns about the study’s data.
In November 2018, Melanie Cassidy, Ali Versluis, and Erin Menzies hosted a roundtable at the Critical Librarianship & Pedagogy Symposium (University of Arizona). Their discussion, titled “Disrupting traditional power structures in academic libraries: Saying no, how to do it, and why it matters,”centers the framework of resilience narratives and how they are used against librarians and library workers. Commonly posited as “doing more with less,” resilience narratives are connected to emotional labor, vocational awe, and low-morale experiences in academic librarianship since they posit organizational and system failures – especially where support is concerned – on individuals (Farkas 2017; Berg, Galvan & Tewell 2018).
They continue their discussion, promoting the creating of a resilience taxonomy allowing library workers to resist the damaging effects of resilience demands. A worksheet accompanies the presentation.
Review the documents.
Berg, J., Galvan, A. & Tewell, E. (2018). Responding to and reimagining resilience in academic libraries. Journal of New Librarianship, 3(1). Retrieved from https://bit.ly/2J29Lwf
Farkas, M. (2017, November 1). Less is not more: Rejecting resilience narratives for library workers. American Libraries. Retrieved from http://bit.ly/2hdznul
Earlier this month with Ione T. Damasco (University of Dayton) at the IDEAL ’19 Conference, I presented our low morale study centering racial and ethnic minority academic librarians. Click the image above to see the presentation, which summarizes my original 2017 low morale study and selected results of the racial/ethnic minority academic librarian study. You may also review live-Tweets of our presentation here, here, and here.
The presentation has also been included in a working bibliography on whiteness in libraries and librarianship.
The full study is slated to be published later this year.
Title: Caution! Hazardous substances: Recognizing and deflecting toxic personalities in the workplace.
Authors: Terrence Bennett, Mollie Freire, and Ann Campion Riley.
ABSTRACT: Personality conflict in the workplace can lead to an ongoing work situation that is painful, personally difficult and uncomfortable through a special combination of factors. This presentation address some aspects of conflict in the workplace and the results of a survey of selected libraries on toxicity in their workplace.
NOTE: The access link also shares copies of case studies for dealing with toxic personality types.
Access the presentation link here.