A Purpose.

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.  You may also find Renewals/Renewers connections on Twitter and Instagram. Additionally, I am offering professional development opportunities for employees or organizations who are committed to promoting and supporting the goal to reduce or eradicate workplace abuse and neglect. Along with this blog, I hope Renewers in all kinds of careers can 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.

All Best,


P.S. Learn more about my broader mission and activities here!

Renewals Reach: High Impact Practices & Student Employment

Liz Vine’s invited paper for the 2021 Association of College & Research Libraries’ conference discusses the role of High Impact Practices through the lens of experiential learning, and with an eye towards equity and learner-centered pedagogy.

The 2019 low morale study (done with Ione T. Damasco) is noted in discussions of BIPOC experiencing a dearth of welcoming workplaces in academia.

Read the paper.

Report Update: Job-Hunting during Low-Morale Experiences – Part 2 (April 2023)

This report update shares qualitative responses of from my job hunting during low-morale experiences data collection project. View earlier qualitative responses here and here, and view Part 1 of this latest update here.

If you haven’t started looking for a job yet, how have your job search concerns impacted your daily work?

“It is difficult to concentrate sometimes and I have daily anxiety about being in the current workplace.”

“[E]very time I experience an incident deepening my low morale, I am distracted for an hour or more searching online for job opportunities.”

“I feel paralyzed. Not good enough to do what I know I’m good at doing.”

How have offers and/or rejections impacted your daily work?

“Feelings of dejection, what am I doing wrong, feeling hopeless that I won’t find anything. But, also has strengthening of skills as I do more interviews and hear and answer a variety of questions.”

“Experiencing constant rejection over a span of years while seeing less qualified people hired in the positions for which I applied has contributed to my low morale.”

“I feel discouraged and down each time, but I also find ways to rationalize why an offer was not in the cards for me.”

How have the offers and/or rejections impacted your perceptions of the library profession?

“This profession feels impossible to succeed in. I’ve been working precariously and applying for jobs for years and don’t see an end in sight. It’s honestly starting to make me suicidal.”

“Confirmed the presence of white supremacy in academic librarianship.”

“I feel like my experience is not taken seriously. I have no idea what people are looking for anymore.”

Considering your job hunt activities (or desire to begin looking for a new job), how has your low-morale experience affected your perceptions of career mobility?

“I’ve come to realize that no matter what competency I display in my current position: successful projects, continuing education, unique skills there is no way I can advance in my career. And I’ve seen several other of my peers leave the system for the same reasons I’m discouraged.”

“Just reading job descriptions is tiring. More often that I find myself opting out of applying because it’s demoralizing to submit variations of the same application portfolio to receive–if I’m a lucky–a two-sentence rejection by email.”

“I feel stuck and I am unsure of my skills and competencies. Are they transferable? I want to look outside of libraries, is that realistic? In short, a lot of self doubt.”

Feel free to share other concerns, advice, or ideas about job hunting during low-morale experiences.

How are we supposed to get letters of recommendation? Or even talk about our recent experiences or why we want to leave?.”

I’m worried that I’m too broken and infected by this workplace to fit into another organization. I’m worried that interviewers will somehow sense that I’ve been broken by my current job.”

I recently did find a new job. It’s a much better environment and I’m so far doing better. I am still considering next moves. I don’t know if I will stay in the library and archives field or not.”

I am pretty sure the rejection I received from my final round interview was because I use a mobility aid. I met with the current librarian whose position I would be taking if I received the job, and she immediately gave me a lecture about how I should be prepared because the work is “very physical.” I’ve worked in libraries for nearly 10 years now so I’m aware of what it takes. I worry that this job just didn’t want to accommodate my need for occasional help.”

The survey remains open. I will periodically publish updates. 

Report Update: Job-Hunting during Low-Morale Experiences – Part 1 (April 2023)

In March 2021 I shared an update of my ongoing data collection project on how job-hunting is impacted by low-morale experiences. Specifically, the survey explores the impact and outcomes of the job-seeking process while also dealing with the cognitive, mental, emotional, and physical health tolls of workplace abuse and neglect.  You may also review the initial quantitative data released in Spring 2020.

Here are the quantitative results of the report, which reflects 199 responses:

  • 97% are currently experiencing workplace abuse/neglect (low morale);
  • 42% indicate their low-morale experience has lasted between 1 -3 years;
  • 67% are currently looking for a new job as a result of their low-morale experience;
  • 81% are searching for work in other libraries;
  • Those who haven’t yet started looking note the following concerns:
    • 84%: presence of workplace dysfunction or low morale at potential workplaces
    • 69%: salary
    • 65%: labor of job searching (e.g., writing cover letters, updating resumes, gathering references)
    • 55% relocation
    • 52% distance (commute)
  • Of those who have been looking for work, 69% have had between 0 and 3 interviews.

Part 2 will share qualitative results. This survey remains open, and I will continue reporting results periodically. 


Renewals Reach: Work conditions and organizational justice

Matteson, Ming, and Silva apply organizational justice theory to decision-making in library administration and consider the role of this application in improving employee perceptions of the workplace, particularly where perceptions of fairness, autonomy and other factors. Access the article (possible paywall).

Five Years up

Today Renewals is five years old! We’re also recognizing the five year anniversary of the Renewers Facebook community, and the three-year anniversary of Renewals’ Twitter and Instagram communities. Renewals communities have continued growing – respectively, our Facebook community, now has 2,054 members, Twitter: 1,311, and Instagram: 940. Also, data collection projects have continued and/or commenced, and I’ve expanded Renewals services that confirm its mission to reconnect people and organizations to their purpose, create empathetic strategies, and center positive and wholehearted outcomes for the improvement, integrity, and humanity of our workplaces. 

I also am continuing to gather and report data on various aspects of low-morale experiences. This year I added one project:

As a reminder, I will cease gathering data on low-morale experiences during COVID-19 when the United States federal government ends its formal recognition of the Pandemic. If you’d like to participate, please do so before that time.

My insight on workplace morale continues to be sought after in media – in June 2022, I was included in American Libraries’ lead article, “Quitting Time,” wherein I discussed the role of the Pandemic on library worker attrition (note: the original [print] article mis-represented my discussion of self-preservation, and the online version was updated to clarify my stance on this important skillset/countermeasure for low morale).

Organizations invited me to lead Renewals professional development events, including: 

  • Washington Research Library Consortium (April 2022)
  • Massachusetts Library Association (May 2022)

I was also invited to offer keynotes or panels/interviews to professional library and archives organizations:

  • Massachusetts Library Association (May 2022)
  • Association of College & Research Libraries – Louisiana Chapter Summer Research Forum (July 2022)
  • Society of Georgia Archivists (October 2022)
  • Institute of Research Design in Librarianship Online Conference (November 2022)

I am scheduled for additional facilitated events and public speaking this year, so please follow this blog to keep updated, and be sure to contact me for public speaking, interviews, and more.

Low-morale experiences deeply impact people’s mental health, and these impacts are more deeply and broadly felt by Black, Indigenous, and People of Color. To that end, I continued my efforts to build sustainable safer spaces for this group to share their experiences in real time via the BIPOC in LIS Mental Health Summits. During this reporting period, I’ve co-led/co-organized two events with Twanna Hodge:

  • Exploring the Healing Role of Somatic Experiencing with Xan Goodman – Part 1 (October 2022)
  • Exploring the Healing Role of Somatic Experiencing with Xan Goodman (and yoga practice with Kelsa Bartley) – Part 2 (February 2023)

You can review presenter and attendee-generated resources at the BIPOC in LIS Mental Health Summit Community Record.

Through Renewals Coaching, I’ve continued collaborating with people who are seeking career clarity and/or support as they navigate within or transition from dysfunctional workplaces. E. Callahan shared the following about her Renewals Coaching experience: 

“…It is so clear that Kaetrena knows the ins and outs of the struggles library workers are contending with… I felt heard and validated, but also got immediate tools to help me reframe my situation in ways that don’t perpetuate negativity or sap the energy I need for progress and change.”

Building on this purpose and similar feedback from other clients, this year, I expanded Renewals Services to include coaching for organizational groups, and individual coaching for formal leaders: 

I remain deeply thankful to be able to do this work and continuously identify ways for workers dealing with low morale to find validation and victory in their recovery. I am grateful for the encouragement and support of my colleagues, mentors, family, and friends, and am looking forward to expanding my courage in the coming year.

In addition to this blog, you are welcome to keep up with my  formal research, speaking engagements, and other work here. I will continue to improve. Please look forward to it.

All Best,



Report: Legacy Toxicity in Formal Leader Low-Morale Experiences – Part 2 (March 2023)

Since Fall of 2021 I’ve been tracking formal leaders’ experiences with Legacy Toxicity, and earlier this month I shared the inaugural quantitative dataset for this ongoing data collection project. In this post, I’m sharing qualitative data from the survey (n=53). These are selected responses from two open-ended questions asking participants to offer contextual information about their experiences of legacy toxicity. As a reminder, legacy toxicity within a low-morale experience is marked by:

the dysfunctional environment inherited by a person who assumes a leadership position in a toxic organization or group. Such toxicity may not be effectively mitigated due to the previous incumbent’s role in a) engaging in or perpetuating abuse/neglect, b) already exhausting avenues to eradicate it, and/or c) organizational, group, or individuals’ conscious or unconscious resistance to the new leader’s attempts to reduce or eradicate the source(s) of toxicity.

  • Please share your experience of Legacy Toxicity
    • “I was in a leadership role without proper training. The person that was supposed to be my trainer and mentor retired as soon as I accepted the position. I was coming into a library with really low morale and all of my attempts at improving morale didn’t pan out. I had a great interim manager but the person in the administrative roles was abrasive. The training I did receive was from a program the library no longer used for new employees. I felt unsupported and unappreciated.”
    • “I became the Head of my department after first the retirement of a 23 year long manager retired and left the department to her assistant manager (an assistant manager for 7 years), who stepped down from the position within 10 months due to staff toxicity that was encouraged by the outgoing long-term manager.”
    • “When I attempted to make small but impactful change, I was threatened to have my office doused in gasoline, and unhappy staff went to the director, Board, and eventually the public to try to have me fired.”
    • “My previous incumbent had kept from me, and direct reports and peer managers tried to take advantage of me as a result – including telling me how to do things and trying to see if I could do things that had been denied before (for good reason). The previous person were also white (I am not) and I had to sift through additional burdens that they did not have to face – including dealing with others’ (peers, direct reports, library administrators) constant white and even masculine fragility. I also discovered just how underresourced we had been and had been forced to operate under unsustainable conditions without solutions that I then tried to find. My supervisor was absent except when they needed something urgently, and did not know how to support a non-white direct report (even saying so at one point).”
    • “Some library staff and faculty can’t get past things the dean four deans in the past did (nearly 20 years ago). Some reorganizations and moves have set a trauma that hasn’t been acknowledged (or acknowledged to the satisfaction of those involved) so any new leader is still tied to what leaders did far in the past. They don’t get judged or evaluated on their own merits.”
  • Please share other concerns or strategies you have about dealing with or reducing Legacy Toxicity:
    • “I work very closely with my Management Team to problem solve these types of situations. Sometimes toxic staff just need to leave.”
    • “Knowing what you are stepping into is so key. I had worked on the team before becoming director and had massively misjudged the environment (I have a very bad habit of wanting to think the best of people until they really act badly). I think if I had recognized the magnitude of the issues I would have taken a harder line with the staff on appropriate attitudes and behavior at the start, weeding out not just the one person who I thought was the only problem but the other ringleaders who were more quietly discontented and maladjusted. I would not have allowed staff to openly disrespect me and might have been less liked at first, but ultimately would have probably been more effective at creating an environment of people who wanted to work hard and move forward together and who were willing and able to adapt to change.”
    • “You have to get rid of people who refuse to adapt to the changes needed. Accountability is the corner stone. You cannot just move folks from one department or branch to another. This is viewed as a reward.”
    • “I ran across a white paper online: How to Manage Dysfunctional Workplace Situations and Issues Within Legal Parameters by Howard W. Bell, Jr., President of Bell & Trice Enterprises, Inc. February 19, 2002. On page 12, he lists four individual strategies for Coping with Dysfunctional Workplaces. The approaches are: 1. Stay and seek to change the situation 2. Leave the organization 3. Stay and suffer in silence 4. Stay and try to “best” the system. There are benefits and risks for each approach, which are outlined in the paper. I have tried all four during the course of my career. I learned I am really bad at #3, and incompetent at #4. I advise new employees (first five years of career) towards #2 . I am in my late career, and have settled on #1. This is the one that suits my personality best anyway.”

The survey remains open and I will post updates periodically. See Part 1 of this report.


Report: Legacy Toxicity in Formal Leader Low-Morale Experiences – Part 1 (February 2023)

For the past few years I’ve been considering something I call Legacy Toxicity:

the dysfunctional environment inherited by a person who assumes a leadership position in a toxic organization or group. Such toxicity may not be effectively mitigated due to the previous incumbent’s role in a) engaging in or perpetuating abuse/neglect, b) already exhausting avenues to eradicate it, and/or c) organizational, group, or individuals’ conscious or unconscious resistance to the new leader’s attempts to reduce or eradicate the source(s) of toxicity,

In September 2021, I created a survey to further explore the role of this impact factor. This inaugural report shares the first dataset of quantitative responses to this ongoing data collection project (n=53)

  • 75% are currently experiencing workplace abuse/neglect (low morale);
  • 41% indicate their low-morale experience has lasted between 1 -3 years; 31% more than three years
  • 66% are Caucasian; 11% are Black/African-American; 8%% are Hispanic; 8% are Multi-racial.
  • 93% are female; 8%are male; 2% are non-binary
  • 73% are currently dealing with Legacy Toxicity; 28% note that their experience of Legacy Toxicity happened in the past.
  • During their experience with Legacy Toxicity,
    • 47% were emerging formal leaders (0 – 3 years of formal leadership experience)
    • 32% were experienced formal leaders (6 years or more of formal leadership experience)
    • 21% were developing leaders (4-6 years of formal leadership experience)
  • During the experience, participants were employed at:
    • 51%: academic library
    • 49%: public library
  • Those involved with perpetuating the Legacy Toxicity are/were:
    • 59% Library managers or supervisors (e.g., Department/Unit Heads)
    • 59% Campus or library system executive leadership
    • 52%% Fellow campus or library system administrators (e.g., Deans, Assistant Directors)
    • 42% Direct reports
    • 32% Indirect reports
  • The primary cause of your Legacy Toxicity is/was:
    • 57% Organizational, group, or individuals’ (un)conscious resistance to your attempts to reduce or eradicate the source(s) of toxicity.
    • 37% The previous incumbent’s role in engaging in or perpetuating abuse/neglect
    • 6% The previous incumbent already exhausting formal or informal avenues to eradicate toxicity

Part 2 will share qualitative results. This survey remains open, and I will continue reporting results periodically. 


Book Haul: Communication

A fundamental thread throughout low-morale experience development is how the people involved talk (or don’t) talk with each other.  Frameworks like library nice and resilience narratives encourage inauthentic or weaponized performances of civility or toxic positivity; in turn, people engage behaviors of hypervigilance and negative self-talk as they try to predict or decipher what people are trying to say (or not say).

What books would you add to this short list of recommendations?

Brook, T. (2021). How to professionally exit a dysfunctional workplace conversation. Brisband: Tess Brook.

Center for Creative Leadership. (2019). Feedback that works: How to build and deliver through your message

Elgin, S.H. (2000). The gentle art of self-defense at work. Paramus: Prentice Hall Press.

Evenson, R. (2014). Powerful phrases for dealing with difficult people: Over 325 ready-to-use words and phrases for working with challenging personalities. New York: AMACOM.

King, P. (2018). The art of everyday assertiveness: Speak up. Say no. Set boundaries. Take back control.

Rice, R.E. & Cooper, S.E. (2010). Organizations and unusual routines: A systems analysis of dysfunctional feedback processesCambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Spitzberg, B.H. & Cupach, W.R. (2005). The dark side of interpersonal communication. Mahwah: Lawrence Eribaum Associates.

Wise, Will (2017). Ask powerful questions: create conversations that matter. We!: United States.

Launched: Renewals Executive Coaching


A year ago on this day, I started Renewals Coaching! Today, I’m beyond excited to announce that I’m launching Renewals Executive Coaching, designed to focus on the organizational culture and performance needs and concerns of formal leaders.  This service expansion continues its core objective of working with people seeking support while working in dysfunctional workplaces, with a particular focus on the challenges leaders experiencing low morale may faceAs always, Renewals Coaching is grounded in my ongoing low morale research and supported by over a decade of experience in guiding people in improving their professional communication strategies.

If you are a formal leader who is…

  • Employed at a dysfunctional organization or leading dysfunctional teams or departments;
  • Ready to identify and apply strategies for improved workplace culture;
  • Experiencing or recovering from a current or previous low-morale experience;
  • Willing to identify and reduce low-morale-induced systems and behaviors impacting your leadership style and/or workplace relationships;
  • Leading alone (solo director or deanship) or in isolation and seeking connection and perspective on daily or long-term work during routine or challenging times; and
  • Interested in (re-)centering employee inclusion and well-being, 

Renewals Executive Coaching is for you! Request a consultation.

If you’re an informal leader, learn more about Renewals Coaching – and request a consultation.