Report: Barriers to Authenticity for PoC Academic Librarians

[This content was originally published on May 20, 2019 at The Ink On The Page.]

This is the second of two blogposts sharing some of the qualitative data offered by respondents to my ongoing survey on deauthenticity in racial and ethnic minority academic librarians (read the initial qualitative report on deauthentication and library practice impacts here). For review, deauthentication is “a cognitive process that People of Color (PoC) traverse to prepare for or navigate predominantly White workplace environments, resulting in decisions that hide or reduce aspects of

  1. the influence of their ethnic, racial, or cultural identity,  and 
  2. the presentation of their natural personality, language, physical and mental self-images/representations, interests, relationships, values, traditions, and more,

to avoid macro- or microaggressions, shaming, incivility, punishment or retaliation, and which results in barriers to sharing their whole selves with their colleagues and/or clients.” (Kendrick 2018)

The following data are responses to the survey’s final question,“What do you believe may happen at your workplace or in your library career if you do not engage in deauthentication?”

  • “White coworkers will be uncomfortable or will make cringeworthy comments.”
  • “Probably microaggressions and other hassles would increase.”
  • “At this point, nothing. I am tenure track and my board likes me ( for the most part), but they are older. If my biggest supporters were to die before I get tenure then I would be worried about my job security. Beyond that, I feel like I have no mobility in my position, partially because of perceptions about who I am. I am not taken seriously and I do not get the support I need from administration, but I cannot complain.”
  • “I have been in meetings where potential candidates for employment have been accused of displaying stereotypical behavior even though they did not engage in it during the interview. The accusers recall this behavior even when challenged to specify the details. I work with people who weaponize cultural practices, clothing, hairstyles, and gestures as evidence of otherness and proof that the person would not make a good fit. I would not have been hired if I did not engage in deauthentication.”
  • “I’m generally authentic and it has isolated me and prevented me from being seen as management material, being authentic makes me seem like I’m not a team player. It makes others at work avoid me. They don’t celebrate me.”
  • “I’m already “othered” by being a POC in a predominately white institution. I believe that if I was my authentic self, white women in particular would be even further alienated from me and would feel even more threatened by me. In my double digit career finding points of relatability to white women is frankly impossible and it’s not an effort that white women make. So (I’m realizing this as I type) I make myself and my personality smaller, I take up less space, time and say less.”
  • “A reputation as an outsider, unworthy of promotion, assistance, and generally a loss of credibility.”
  • “It has been happening. I have stopped deauthentication. My hair is now long and I wear my headband often at work I am reclaiming my indigenous heritage. This will be used against me–I’m sure. It is my experience that POC must adhere strictly to Whiteness or suffer career consequences.”
  • “I’ll be labeled a “troublemaker” and “bad fit” and be pushed out of my position through lack of funding and support for professional development, stalled out salary, and watching as others with less experience make unusually large advancements in their careers. This is not something I believe will happen—this is something I know will happen as I’ve watched it happen to others in my department for a variety of different reasons (though not race, as I am the only POC hire within at least the past dozen librarian hires).”
  • “In [my] first professional library job at a community college, I was naive about what the consequences to not engaging in deauthentication. I was more myself at work (at least at the beginning), which means loud and straight to the point.When it came time for my first review, I lost points for “unprofessional behavior” and my supervisor, who was a white woman, sited that I at times seemed “elevated.” To this day I’m not exactly sure what exactly she was trying to say with the word “elevated”, but it certainly wasn’t positive. I know I am often regarded as too loud and obnoxious, and colleagues in the past have definitely “shushed” me or told me to “calm down” when I was only expressing excitement, but I wasn’t expecting to be marked down for it in an official review.”
  • “I’d be way less stressed and able to focus more on my actual job.”
  • “I would get more work done; have better relationships with colleagues and patrons.”
  • “I think that the workplace would be forced to recognize that everyone is different and that who I am as a librarian who happens to be Black is not something I need to change. It is something that should be supported by the institution. Engaging in deauthentication rewards the bad behaviors of others, including the institution, and makes it more difficult for others to enter the field or for me to want to stay.”

Final data analysis from my low-morale study on racial and ethnic minority academic librarians reveal that deauthentication is an (additional) impact factor in PoC low-morale experiences; while this group was not asked about low-morale specifically, we can infer from their included descriptions of systemic abuse, emotional abuse, and negligence, that it is possible that they are moving through these experiences as they deauthenticate.

Works Cited

Kendrick, K.D. (2018, Feb. 5). Considering: Deauthenticity in the workplace. Retrieved from https://bit.ly/2BWTqkR.

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Low-Morale Experience Assessment Survey (May 2019)

The session session of my Library Juice Academy course, “Deconstructing the Low-Morale Experience in Academic Libraries,” is now in its third week. I asked students enrolled in the course to participate in a quick Low-Morale Experience Assessment survey, just so we could get a quick gauge on what the landscape looks like for this cohort.

Course attendees agreed I could share the aggregated results. There are sixteen people enrolled in the class, and they hail from from public, academic, and school libraries in North America. The following results reflect the responses of fourteen participants (survey participation was optional). 

  • 86% agree they have experienced low-morale according to the 2017 Kendrick study definition.
  • 50% indicate their low morale experience occurred/is occurring in their current and past workplaces.
  • 50% indicate their experience has lasted three months or fewer.
  • 79% indicate that the perpetrators are library administrators; 57% indicate library supervisors or managers; 43% indicate library colleagues.
  • 93% indicate they experience(d) system abuse; 71% experience(d) negligence; 57% experience(d) emotional abuse; and 50% experience(d) verbal/written abuse.
  • Uncertainty & Mistrust (93%), Leadership Styles (79%), Staffing/Employment (71%), Contagion (64%) and Human Resources Limitations (50%) are major contributors to the LME.
  • 93% of respondents indicate feelings of Disillusion; 86% of respondents indicate Anger; 77% indicate Regret; 71% tied with Sadness and Worry; 64% tied with Depression and Skepticism, and 57% indicated Despair.
  • 50% have developed physical health conditions as result of their LME, including hypertension, insomnia, stress-induced muscular conditions, and gastrointestinal distress.
  • 64% have developed mental health conditions as a result of their LME, including anxiety and (increased) depression, reduced self-esteem, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
  • 64% have noticed/experienced a desire to change careers; a four-way tie of 54% of participants have also noticed/experienced decreases in work productivity, professional engagement, and willingness to collaborate and an increase in absenteeism; and 50% have noticed/experienced increased procrastination.

These results give a real-time snapshot of the low-morale experience as perceived by colleagues currently dealing with this phenomenon. I appreciate their willingness to allow me to share this data with the public.

View the October 2018 cohort’s Low-Morale Assessment Survey results.

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Report: How Deauthentication Impacts PoC Academic Librarians’ Library Practice

[This content was originally published on May 14, 2019 at The Ink On The Page.]

After sharing my thoughts on the theme of deauthenticity that arose in my PoC academic librarian low-morale study data, I created a quick survey and reported the initial results via TIOTP last June. 

As a review, deauthentication is defined as “a cognitive process that People of Color (PoC) traverse to prepare for or navigate predominantly White workplace environments, resulting in decisions that hide or reduce aspects of

  1. the influence of their ethnic, racial, or cultural identity,  and 
  2. the presentation of their natural personality, language, physical and mental self-images/representations, interests, relationships, values, traditions, and more,

to avoid macro- or microaggressions, shaming, incivility, punishment or retaliation, and which results in barriers to sharing their whole selves with their colleagues and/or clients.” (Kendrick 2018)

The survey is still open and I will share an update soon, and for now, the next two blogposts will focus on the qualitative data that has been offered so far.  The first qualitative question is: “How has deauthentication affected your library practice?” 

Respondent answers include:

  • “I feel like I’m torn in half and cannot reconcile my professional life with my culture and values.”
  • “I have to neutralize my personality so I will be considered capable to lead projects and for advancement.”
  • “I have hidden my Asian heritage and my political beliefs, and tried to conform to the white standards so it does not look like I am rocking the status quo.”
  • The most obvious way is that I feel I have to be “better”–a better employee, better colleague, better customer service representative of my institution to patrons (this last one especially)–to demonstrate not that I’m actually better, but just as good of a librarian as my colleagues. While I’d strive to do my best in any environment, the feeling that I need to work extra hard to be considered good enough and to not have my mistakes be critiqued more harshly than similar mistakes made by white colleagues is exhausting.”
  • “Sometimes I would feel like I wasn’t as smart as my colleagues, often stressed about not being able to move up. Conversely, I would feel like my coworkers were jealous of me for being popular with students.”
  • “I feel like it censors diversity representation, what the students see.”
  • “It has made my experience as a librarian an experience of the ‘other.’ I never feel part of the library, nor part of the decisions, nor do I get respect on my achievements.”
  • “I think that because I strive to work against stereotypes of the “spicy” Latina, I frequently wind up second guessing all other aspects of my work. My impostor syndrome is definitely heightened because I am worried about seeming too aggressive, excited, or over the top. This heightened impostor syndrome has impacted my overall confidence level in my ideas and in my feelings of self-worth. I don’t always trust my own voice and my own ideas, or believe that I have the right to take up space if I disagree with my colleagues.”
  • “To my white colleagues in and out of the library, I am just someone who tans easily. Anytime I slip up and mention something about my borderland childhood or Mexican family traditions there’s always a weird pause and people kind of look at me funny and go back to whatever they were talking about it. It’s not relatable to them so I generally try not to bring it up because I don’t want those memories tainted by that weirdness. lt definitely puts distance between myself and them.”
  • “I sometimes feel like a fraud at work, that I’m not allowed to be my true self and talk about my passions, and that all I’m here to do is catalog items and attend meetings. Supervisors have no clue how to interact with direct reports that are POC, and library administration doesn’t see the need to do training in that area.”
  • “It has kept me from reaching my potential as a leader.”
  • I have been exoticized at my institution due to how I wear and wrap my hair. I am more cautious of how I present myself in appearance. I only get to “relax” during breaks and the summer because not many folks are around then. I wear my hair natural and I wear more head wraps then. I also no longer share personal information about my upbringing and some of my interests. My white colleagues have assumed I share the same interests in classic films, music, and media, and I am tired of explaining that I didn’t grow up with the same references as them.”
  • “I’d honestly have to process this further. I checked nearly every box and I’m wondering who I am at work. I do know it’s stifling. Like a straight jacket. It’s a self- imposed reduction of my own voice.”
  • I become very bland and feel like I have to speak about my interest in social justice issues in a way that won’t offend my white coworkers or pretend to be ignorant about my culture or cultures similar to mine when my white colleagues talk about the subject and their experiences with it.”
  • “I feel that I can’t be whole with my coworkers. I constantly have to change who I am to fit in or be understood. With my students at the college, it’s a little different because we serve a majority PoC district, so I feel like I can breathe and be more authentic with them.”

These reflective statements reveal many aspects of deauthentication – as defined – and also reach into another impact factor of the PoC- low-morale experience: Stereotype threatYou also see aspects of the Privilege of Authenticity that respondents believe their non-PoC colleagues enjoy.  Within the context of deauthentication, the privilege of authenticity highlights non-PoC employees’ ability to “1) display a full range of emotions, 2) share interests, opinions, personal life and health details and histories, family details, hobbies, etc. and 2) present themselves physically (hair, clothing, skin, makeup, accessories, etc.)  in almost any way – and in (almost) any workplace setting – with considerably less concern about shaming, push-back, punishment/mistreatment, unsolicited interference, or undue interrogation” (Kendrick 2018).

Deauthentication is also an impact factor in PoC the low-morale experience. We should remember that this group of respondents are who are deauthenticating are, quite possibly, doing so while being exposed to repeated and protracted workplace abuse and neglect (low morale). It should also be noted that deauthentication seems to be an internally-imposed response to expected and actual instances of racial-, cultural-, or ethnic-based workplace hostility (including the unintentional vagaries of microaggressions and implicit bias).

Works Cited

Kendrick, K.D. (2018, Feb. 5). Considering: Deauthenticity in the workplace. Retrieved from https://bit.ly/2BWTqkR

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#RecommendedReading

Title: An investigation of factors impacting the wellness of academic library employees.

Authors: Leo S. Lo & Bethany Herman

ABSTRACT: The term “wellness” is fast garnering attention on how it affects one’s professional and personal life. This study explores the multi-dimensions of wellness and investigates factors that might impact the “wellness” of employees in academic libraries. The research topic was addressed through quantitative analyses of responses to multiple choice, ranking and qualitative analyses of responses to open-ended items. With a total of 1123 respondents, key findings include: there are statistical relationships between how respondents characterize themselves and how often they felt overwhelmed; the respondents’ age and how often they felt overwhelmed; the respondents’ age and how important they feel eating healthy is; the respondents’ current position and how important is being optimistic is to them.

Read the article.

Now Offering: The Renewal Seminar & The Renewal Workshop

I’m thrilled to announce the launch of The Renewal Seminar and The Renewal WorkshopThese professional development offerings are an extension of my online course, and they are designed to help organizations or groups intentionally participate in the work of promoting authentic collegiality, increasing civility, modeling humane leadership, and engaging in or creating meaningful employee support and wellness advocacy structures, systems, protocols, and policies in North American libraries and workplaces of all types.

I look forward to working with organizations, professional member associations, advocacy groups, and individuals who are ready to join the movement to improve collegiality, promote library employee advocacy, and support well-being in North American workplaces.

Contact me soon to facilitate a Seminar or Workshop for you!

All Best,

RenewBlogSigTrans

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