Low-Morale Experience Trajectory

The low-morale experience is a trajectory of events that occur for most people dealing with workplace abuse or neglect (Kendrick 2017). Review the trajectory below, and if this experience is familiar to you, consider participating in any of my ongoing data collection activities.

The Trigger Event: Trigger events are unexpected and move positive or neutral workplace relationships to a negative state. The perpetrating employee is revealed as an unexpected & active threat.

Trigger Event Responses: There are immediate emotional and physiological responses to trigger events, including feelings of shock, betrayal, or confusion, and the symptoms of the fight-or-flight response (including the freeze response).

Trigger Event Impact: Trigger events introduce victims to core types of abuse and neglect: 

  • Emotional abuse
  • Verbal/written abuse
  • System abuse
  • Physical abuse (2021)
  • Negligence

Long-Term Exposure to Abuse or Neglect: Abused/neglected employees are subjected to numerous acts of the core abuse types for three months or more.

Responses to Long-Term Abuse or Neglect Exposure: Victims experience emotional, physical, and cognitive responses to long-term abuse/neglect, including, but not limited to:

  • Anger, hopelessness, sadness
  • Hypertension, migraines
  • Procrastination, hyperviligance

Impacts on Daily Work & Career Outlook: Low morale victims experience reduced interest in their work, professional development, and begin doubting or reconsidering their career choice and path.

Commencement of Coping Strategies:  Low morale victims begin engaging in positive or negative coping behaviors (yoga, overeating, mediation, binge-watching television). These behaviors do not impact the abuser(s) or the dysfunctional workplace.

Attempts to Reduce or Resolve the Experience: Victims begin to take actions to resolve or end their experience, and these actions impact the abuser and/or the workplace. Popular mitigation methods include:

  • Job searching
  • Documenting abuser behaviors
  • Reporting abuse to Human Resources
  • Creating new policies or procedures

Long-Term Impacts Revealed: Victims have sustained feelings of reduced professional confidence, mistrust of colleagues, skepticism of coworkers, and difficulties with decision-making – even at a new job with less or no dysfunction. Negative physical and mental health outcomes may also continue.

Low Morale Recovery: Recovery from long-term abuse or neglect is long-term and not guaranteed, particularly if mental and physical health is deeply compromised (e.g., PTSD, cardiovascular issues). Positive recovery efforts include therapy, counseling and engagement in professional development.

Lessons Learned from the Low-Morale Experience: Low morale victims note their experiences have increased their empathy & compassion in subsequent workplaces and spurred their development of positive leadership styles.

This trajectory has been validated for Black Indigenous, and People of Color (Kendrick & Damasco 2019), employees working in public libraries (Kendrick 2021), and employees who shared how they left a low-morale workplace. (Kendrick 2021).

Sound familiar? Share your story.

Works Cited

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

Kendrick, K.D. (2021). Leaving the low-morale experience: A qualitative studyAlki: The Washington Library Association Journal, 37(9): 9-24.

Kendrick, K.D. & Damasco, I.T. (2019). Low morale in ethnic and racial minority academic librarians: An experiential studyLibrary Quarterly, 68(2):174-212.

Kendrick, K.D. (2021). The public librarian low-morale experience: A qualitative studyPartnership: The Canadian Journal of Library and Information Practice and Research, 15(2): 1-32.



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