While the low-morale experience is a unique phenomenon, it can be housed within several frameworks, some of which are distinctive to helping professions like librarianship, and others that are found in the general workforce.
Ambiguous Loss – a loss that occurs without a significant likelihood of reaching emotional closure or a clear understanding. (Boss 2000; See Also, low morale and ambiguous loss during COVID-19).
Burnout – physical, mental, and emotional exhaustion due to protracted engagement in emotionally demanding environments. (Pines & Aronson 1988)
Compassion Fatigue – also known as vicarious traumatization or secondary traumatization, compassion fatigue is “a state experienced by those helping people in distress; it is an extreme state of tension and preoccupation with the suffering of those being helped to the degree that it is traumatizing for the helper” (Figley 2005). NOTE: Compassion fatigue is differentiated from burnout, and they can co-exist.
Congeniality and Competence Conflation – centering and/or confusing feelings of friendliness or social comfort with co-workers as signs of their professional competence (Freedman 2009).
Job Precarity – lack of fairly compensated, stable, permanent work and associated benefits. (Henninger, Brons, Riley & Yin 2019; See Also, more research being done about job precarity in library workplaces).
LIS Behavior Culture (“Library Nice” – see more here from Donna Lanclos) – privileging performances of politeness over correction/discipline of toxic behaviors or recognition/amelioration of deep-seated systems of inequity, oppression, or exclusion.
Resilience Narratives – individuals are placed in charge of /blamed for organizational/system failures. (Berg, Galvan & Tewell 2018)
Vocational Awe – weaponization of LIS Values against practitioners; over-centering of work identity; resistance to field critique (Ettarh 2017; See Also, how vocational awe maps to low-morale experiences).
Are any of these familiar to you? In your low-morale experience, how did these structures manifest?