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!

Reserved: Various (October 2023)

Next month I’ll be collaborating with several groups to discuss aspects of low morale and associated frameworks. Follow the links where available to learn more and/or register!

October 4, 2023 | Universitas Indonesia (University of Indonesia) Library; 8;45A WIB: “Addressing Low-Morale Experience in Library and Information Workplace

October 11, 2023 | WebJunction; 3P EST: “Revitalizing Morale: Cultivating a Supportive Library Culture

October 18, 2023 | Association of Research Libraries 183rd Fall Association Meeting (Invitation Only); 11A EST: Organization & Professional Identity Issues Session, “Shaping Library Culture in the Shadows: Morale, Leadership & Identity

October 30, 2023 | Society of American Archivists; 3P EST: “Navigating Barriers to Ethical Labor Practices” (with Sheridan Sayles and Chris Tanguay) – enrollment is limited!

Report: Leaving Leadership Roles due to Low Morale – Part 2 (September 2023)

This is part two of a two-part report sharing the initial data from my data collection project about about how formal library leaders decided to leave a workplace where they were experiencing low morale. The first part of this report shared quantitative data. This second part offers selected qualitative data (n=51).

Briefly share the tipping point or event that solidified your commitment to leave your leadership role:

  • “I think dealing with the insanity and uncertainty caused by the pandemic was the beginning of the tipping point. I felt entirely alone, left to make decisions I had no ideas how to make, in a deadly pandemic, without any help from the library’s board or library system leadership. I became the scapegoat for the staff and community members who disagreed with my decisions, made to keep everyone as safe as possible with the often conflicting and ever changing information. The final tipping point was that my body gave out. I started experiencing stress-induced medical problems that were debilitating. I realized that my job was literally killing me.”
  • “It was clear that I was hired as a token BIPOC so “Senior Leadership” could say they were developing diversity. After 5+ years, I remain the sole BIPOC member of administration.”
  • “I was constantly roadblocked when trying to start discussions about new projects. It made me realize they lied about being excited to try new things. And that they actually weren’t data driven.”
  • “I told my director I was experiencing a hostile work environment which curtailed my work and responsibilities. He responded by saying he didn’t know what to do.”
  • “Discovering that no one had my back when I had a harassment/stalking accusation occur between two hourly employees. I was instead scapegoated and accused of bias. I asked for help and support and got very little. It was a complicated situation: it had union, disability discrimination and other elements that required very careful and circumspect care. I learned that not only did I have no real authority, I also would be thrown under the bus when things got hard.”

In retrospect, what (other) signs / signals indicated that stepping down or leaving your leadership role is/was the best course of action?

  • Other people were leaving as a direct result of toxic leader with zero empathy.”
  • “The choice to not fill important leadership positions that were desperately needed for operation. Our parent org wanted to save salary money, so they deliberately left leadership positions vacant for extended periods to see if we would adjust. It unfairly burdened junior staff with duties outside their job description and qualifications.”
  • “At the time, I failed to acknowledge the physical impact of staying in such a toxic place for so long. Once I left that organization, I felt better and had a better outlook on life in general.”
  • “Feeling like though I have authority in terms of title and place on the org chart, the specialized library that I direct is undervalued and not seen as significant to our broader unit.”
  • “That the staffing of the library there continues to erode and more and more hats are being placed on the remaining librarians, showing the lack of respect the institution has towards library and its staff over all.”
  • “I was frequently neglected. My supervisor was constantly rescheduling or canceling our 1:1 meetings. I would go months without seeing them. I now have a supervisor who is the exact opposite so it’s helped to reinforce that I made the right decision in leaving.”
  • “People in my personal life were recognizing my stress and burnout. I was beginning to fantasize at work about being injured severely enough to give me time off work. It was starting to become difficult to care about anything.”

If there’s anything else you’d like to share about your decision, please share it:

  • “it was my intention to leave for over a year, but I felt that gaining more years of experience would help me find a better job…after over a year of searching and interviewing for other positions, i revealed to my boss that I had been looking to get out because of the working conditions. He then used this as cause to terminate me (I wasn’t a contract employee, despite having “faculty status”) along with other flat out falsehoods about me and my character. I was not allowed to leave my job on my own terms, and it was abuse all the way through my termination. However, that experience has permanently kept me away from assuming and supervisory or leadership roles ever again. no amount of money is worth reliving that trauma.”
  • “BIPOC leaders need to receive equal respect for their unique perspectives and experiences. Centering colonialism is a barrier and leaders need to dismantle systemic oppression instead of doubling down.”
  • “I think that finding the right organization was key. To jump out of the pan into the fire would have been worse than staying. I was fortunate I was able to find a place where my low morale has been short-lived in periods of very high stress, and then I re-stabilize. I also know that I brought a history of profound trauma from childhood into my leadership as demonstrated by high achievement, high pace of work, and high commitment.”
  • “By staying so late, I now have poor relationships with colleagues whom I trusted and liked. The new dean’s abuse has me questioning whether I should have trusted any of those people, or they were part of the backstabbing and gaslighting that the dean encouraged. I also have to regularly remind myself that I’m not a terrible person or a terrible library administrator, based on proof from that position and my new one…”
  • “There were very few leaders of color at my organization and we all left around the same time. We all knew of each other’s plans, while no one else did.”
  • “People questioned my decision to take a pay cut to leave, but it ended up being negligible with take home pay. This was the best decision for me, and two months into my new job, my friends and family can tell a difference. I feel like I have my life back.”

If you are a formal leader who has left a position due to low morale, participate in this ongoing study. I’ll periodically share updates. See other data collection projects or data collection reports.


Recorded: International Federation of Library Associations Continuing Professional Development Blog (September 2023)

Check out a brief interview I participated in for the International Federation of Library Associations (IFLA)’s professional development- focused blog. In the short discussion, I share my perspectives on the latest trends in access to professional development, and how how continuing education acts as a counter against low-morale experiences. Thanks to Raymond Pun for the chance to engage! Read on.

Report: Leaving Leadership Roles due to Low Morale – Part 1 (August 2023)

Late last year I began a data collection project connected to my work focusing on the low-morale experiences of formal library leaders. Specifically, I created the project to learn more about about how formal library leaders decided to leave a workplace where they were experiencing low morale. In this first part of a two-part report, I share quantitative data. The second part will offer qualitative data.

These quantitative data reflect 51 responses.

  • 61% are currently not experiencing low morale
  • 98% have experienced low morale while in a past formal leadership position
  • 78% are Caucasian; 8% are African-American; 8% are Latino/Hispanic
  • 80% are female
  • 51% indicate their low-morale experience lasted 1 – 3 years; 28% indicate more than 3 years
  • 51% held their impacted leadership position for 1 – 3 years; 29% held their impacted position for 4- 6 years
  • Respondents note the following Impact Factors within their low-morale experience:
    • 76% Uncertainty & Mistrust
    • 75% Legacy Toxicity
    • 75% Potemkin Power
    • 62% Misaligned Values
    • 59% Positional Isolation
    • 59% Accountability
    • 43% Crossfire
  • 36% determined/realized within 13 months – 2 years that they should leave their role due to their low-morale experience
  • Respondents shared they had to negotiate/resolve the following as they decided to leave:
    • 69% Self-perception of failure as a leader (e.g., not being able to “fix” the organization)
    • 65% Salary goals or cost-of-living differentials
    • 55% Self-disappointment
    • 51% Geographical parameters
    • 51% Quality of workplace relationships
  • 66% found another another job outside of the low-morale organization
  • Of those who found a new job:
    • 33% went to another library/archives workplace, but not in a formal leadership role
    • 29% went to another library/archives workplace and to another formal LIS leadership role
    • 27% did not go to another library/archives workplace; and they did not go to a formal leadership role in another industry
    • 11% did not go to another library/archives workplace, and did gain a formal leadership role in another industry
  • 53% of those who left their leadership role due to a low-morale experience wishes they had left sooner.

This data collection project is ongoing – if you are/were a formal leader who dealt with low morale while in your position and left your role due to your experience, please participate. I’ll periodically share updates to this report as responses continue.  Also, see other data collection projects or data collection reports.


Report: ASERL BIPOC Leadership Development Mini-Conference (July 2023)

Late last month I offered a Renewals Seminar/Keynote at the Association of Southeastern Research Libraries’ 2nd BIPOC Leadership Development Mini-Conference. The event was hosted at Georgia Institute of Technology’s stunning Price Gilbert Memorial Library. Following is selected data from attendees.

Professional Demographics and Learning Goals

  • 20% Access Services
  • 50% 10 or more years of service
  • 25% interested in identifying and cultivating positive leadership styles

Share a specific skill or goal you hope to get closer to or realize as a result of attending this seminar:

  • “I hope to learn how to combat low morale in myself and those I work with while also adding to my own leadership toolkit.”
  • “I just hope I am able to be aware of and/or recognize ‘signs’ that my own leadership skills can be a positive OR negative factor in terms of morale at the workplace. I’m looking forward to this seminar!!!”
  • “How to I stop myself from following a path of low morale leadership? Be a leader not a manager during low-morale.”
  • “I want to be able to build a culture at my libraries where BIPOC Librarians want to be. With that said, I would like to figure out how I can start building that foundation in order to be a place where we can recruit and retain BIPOC folks.”

Low-morale experiences and Recovery Pathways

  • 75% have faced or are currently facing low morale
  • 30% experienced low morale between 1 – 3 years
  • 38% experienced system abuse
  • 16% experienced feelings of Frustration
  • 25% noticed a desire to change careers
  • Physical health concerns from low morale include:
    • “…increased blood pressure”
    • “Extreme weight gain…and fatigue”
  • Mental health diagnoses from low morale include:
    • “I have anxiety due to work environment, political environment, and pandemic.”
    • “Depression and anxiety got worse in my previous role
  • Other things people shared about their experience in general:
    • “After my low-morale experience, I had to re-learn that my work as a staff member was important to my organization.”
    • “It wears you down when you think the grass is greener only to find out it’s not. It’s even more frustrating when coworkers praise your place of work when deep down we know we’re suffering due to lack of resources and clear leadership/management. However a lot of the people who I hear praising the workplace are not BIPOC so that says a lot.”
    • “I wasn’t sure if I had a low-morale experience at first, but after going through more of the answers, I realize I may have. I felt tokenized and taken advantage of, but also conflicted because I wanted to make things better and was being counted on as the person to do so.”

Share a practice/behavior that has helped you as you move(d) through your low-morale experience:

  • “I started to do other things that brought me joy. That helped me take the focus off my poor experiences and re-center myself. Additionally, I nurtured relationships and work that were helpful and rewarding.”
  • “Self-confidence in the work I’m doing to self improve for another role or position that suits me best.”
  • “As a staff member, learning that it is okay to reach out to faculty members in other departments and that collaboration is okay and that you do not have to remain in a little silo.”
  • “Having work buddies, creating a calming space outside of the institution’s walls, and/or leaving to find another position.”
  • “Prayer, and action. I eventually got a new job.”
  • “Learning to advocate for myself, write down things that happen, document the innovative and helpful things I do.”

During the Seminar

I covered and clarified several negative workplace behaviors that cause low-morale and asked the group if they had observed or experienced any of them within their workplaces. See the group response below:

ASERL Behaviors

Bystanderism and toxicity are the top experienced/observed negative workplace behaviors for this group.

Considering the purpose of the ASERL event, I also discussed leadership styles that most likely cause or extend low-morale. I asked the group which of those leadership styles they’ve encountered during a low-morale experience:

ASERL Leadership Styles

The top encountered leadership style was Authoritarian.

Seminar Evaluation

Share something you learned during the Seminar or a concept that was defined more clearly during the Seminar:

  • “The library nice concept. I didn’t realize how much that has both hurt and benefited me. I’ve been told that I’m too blunt. And when I tempted my words, public now think I’m sooooo nice. As a black woman, I see it’s a real balancing act.”
  • “It’s everyone’s job to fix this!”
  • “Empathy vs sympathy and the different leadership styles”
  • “The importance of rest. How to combat toxicity”

If there was a concept that you wished were covered during the Seminar, please share it:

  • “I’d like to hear more about how to flip the script mentally and not continue as a leader myself now to people please and want everyone to be happy because of how I was abused by my leader.”
  • “How to be yourself in a professional setting that doesn’t come off as ‘the angry Black man/woman.”

Share how the information offered at this Seminar may impact your daily or long-term library practice:

  • “I feel empowered and validated in my thoughts and understand that it is okay to leave if you are not being supported.”
  • “I’m seriously thinking about getting out of LIS. I think it’s unhealthy for me.”
  • I am going to seek out resources to build skills as a leader to learn how to lead outside of my natural response which is a response based on trauma from previous jobs I have to be nice, agree, …even when I do not. Avoiding conflict because of past trauma is over! Thank you for this presentation!”
  • “I’ve heard Kaetrena’s work before but it reveals something new every, every time I get a chance to revisit it. This time, it helped me to define and assign a name to a low morale experience I had in the past that I didn’t realize I’d had.”

If you have faced low morale, what are your immediate plans to continue your positive recovery (personally or at work)?

  • “Leave the bad situation and make space to recover. Ease into the new job slowly and tap into when I feel overwhelmed.”
  • “First finish reading the resources”
  • “Get some helpers”
  • “I found other things that gave me joy and learned how to mitigate my anger”

Thanks to ASERL (John Burger and Elaina Norlin), as well as Georgia Institute of Technology’s Price Gilbert Memorial Library Associate liaison Karen Manning and Dean Dr. Aisha Johnson for a warm welcome and an impactful day of learning and community-building. If you’re seeking a speaker and facilitator to offer value to your state or region’s library workers, contact me!


Abusive Behaviors in Low-Morale Experiences

As I’ve continued gathering data about low-morale experiences, the originally reported abuse types have been consistent. The original abuse types are:

  • Emotional abuse
  • Verbal/written abuse
  • System abuse
  • Negligence

(Kendrick 2017).

These abuse types have been consistently reported in subsequent studies (Kendrick & Damasco 2019; Kendrick 2021a; Kendrick 2021b; Kendrick 2023) – and have expanded as I’ve talked with more employees in different library types. When I talked with public librarians (Kendrick 2021a) and talked about how folks decide to leave low-morale organizations (Kendrick 2021b), one more abuse type was reported:

  • Physical abuse

Within the abuse types, several behaviors have also been reported consistently. The following listing does not mean that other behaviors are not also occurring – only that the listed ones are the most reported.

  • Emotional abuse – manipulation, intimidation, thwarting, targeting, or micromanaging;
  • Verbal/written abuse -lying, public shaming, yelling/shouting, ephemeral/unfounded complaining, disinforming, or snitching;
  • System abuse – system rigging, cronyism, steamrolling, or violating human resources or workplace policies and procedures; and
  • Negligence – laissez-faire or ambivalent library or campus leadership/ administration, lack of advocacy, capricious decision-making, or ineffective/slow/non-existent communication.
  • Physical abuse – throwing items, pushing, shoving, tackling, grabbing, blocking.

Have you witnessed or experienced any of these abusive behaviors while at work? What have you witnessed or experienced that is not on this list?  If you’re seeking support while dealing with low-morale or trying to transition from a low-morale workplace, review Renewals Coaching and Career Services.


Renewals Reach: Tracking librarians’ ability to refuse

Exploring the question “why can’t librarians just say ‘no’?,” through the lens of multiple disciplines and communication channels, Authors Meyers, Narlock, Martinez-Montavon, and Stathers track the development of crisis narratives and intersections/parallels with vocational awe in librarianship. The study is accompanied by a multimedia Scalar project incorporating critique and film, offering a unique lens of librarian portrayals, expectations, stereotypes that highlight ongoing impacts on library work practices, co-worker relationships, and user interactions.

Read the article.

Reserved: The Renewal Seminar @ASERL BIPOC Mini-Conference (July 2023)

Later this month I’ll be facilitating The Renewal Seminar as part of the Association of Southeastern Research Libraries’ BIPOC Leadership Development Mini-Conference, happening in mid-July at the Georgia Institute of Technology. Learn more.

Report: South Carolina State Library (May 2023)

Wrapping up a busy May, at the end of last month I offered a Renewal Colloquium for the South Carolina State Library. The event was held virtually, and about 50 folks registered (there was a waiting list, as well). Most attendees were formal leaders working in public libraries around the state. Here’s a summary of selected data,

Low-morale experiences

  • 77% have experienced low morale (“the result of repeated, protracted exposure to emotional, verbal/written, and systemic abuse or negligence in the workplace.)
  • 32% have experienced low-morale between 1 and 3 years
  • 28% experienced emotional abuse
  • 33% of perpetrators were library colleagues
  • TIE: Top Impact Factors: Leadership styles and Uncertainty & Mistrust (16%)
  • Top feelings experienced: Frustration (22%), Sadness (11%),  and Anger (10%) 
  • 18% have noticed a desire to change careers; 15% have noticed a decreased willingness to collaborate, a decrease in professional engagement, and a decrease in work productivity.
  • Physical health concerns from low morale include:
    • “high blood pressure”
    • “.lack of sleep and motivation”
  • Mental health diagnoses from low morale include:
    • “Anxiety, depression”
    • “Anxiety – and I know SO MANY people in the library profession with anxiety. It’s a huge problem.”
  • Other things people shared about their experience in general:
    • “If one is in a management role, with supervisors above and employees below, it is possible for those being supervised to mistreat and/or bully the manager by going over their supervisor’s head, spreading rumors, and being uncooperative. I’ve experience this, and if there isn’t support from administration, it’s an almost impossible situation.”
    • “ABLEISM IS A MAJOR THING that I don’t remember seeing listed on the beginning of the survey and this is what has impacted me, personally. You get accused of “absenteeism” when you’re chronically ill (or if your child/family member is). Even if all of your work gets done. Even if shifts are covered. You are still made out to be a bad guy for having a problem no one else does (or no one else shares). I also get told “not to talk about it” a lot… if someone asks “just change the subject…” etc..”

During the Colloquium

After a summary of impact factors, the cohort was asked to consider commonly held expectations of leaders that could also fuel low-morale experiences for leaders.  See the figure below to review some attendee responses.


A general theme seems to reveal gaps in communication and work expectations.

I also asked the group to share adjectives describing their leadership styles:


The most shared adjective was empathetic, and the group was challenged to consider how their stated leadership styles may harbor shadow aspects that they aren’t aware of.

Colloquium Evaluation

Share something you learned during the Colloquium or a concept that was defined more clearly during the Colloquium:

  • “I felt the presenter was knowledgeable, experienced, and engaging. Information was presented in a clear and useful manner. The section on Low Morale and how some things/issues are dumped on Leaders was timely and interesting. Also, knowing others are in the same boat, different decks is helpful. Thank you.”
  • “That I am in fact already experiencing low-morale BUT I can work on it.”

If there was a concept that you wished were covered during the Colloquium, please share it:

  • “It was touched on, but I would like to dive a little more into assertive communication.”
  • ”Just more time for countermeasures please…”

Share how the information offered at this Colloquium may impact your daily or long-term library practice:

  • “So many ways!! The first part of the training spoke to my personal experience. I want to go back and review everything now to look at it from a managerial POV. I am looking into an assertive communication training. I also want to find ways to point out when someone is doing the aggressions you listed. I also want to assess my style to find ways to rebuild after having the trigger event.”
  • “It’s given me a larger toolset for self-evaluation. For example, I recognize some of the laissez-faire inclinations in my own behavior at times, and it’s good to be reminded about this so I can check myself.”
  • “This will help me take a step back and examine my own behaviors in terms of being a leader. I appreciate the acknowledgement of the Pandemic and the effect it has had on libraries and librarians. I appreciated the open dialogue.”

If you have faced low morale, what are your immediate plans to continue your positive recovery (personally or at work)?

  • “Open communication about expectations and limitations with leadership.”
  • .“Currently working on improving my boundaries and learning how to set priorities for my department so we don’t get overloaded.”
  • “I’ll be real: I’ve been a library director for over 10 years, and I walked into this training fully expecting to hear “this is how you can improve your employees’ morale or at least get them to stop complaining about it.” It did not really occur to me that leaders can have low morale. Like, we can have burnout, stress, etc., but “low morale” is just something for the rank-and-file. It was refreshing and validating to be able to discuss that.”

I want to thank Caroline Smith at the South Carolina State Library for inviting me to speak to South Carolina library leaders – if you’re seeking a speaker and facilitator to offer value to your state or region’s library workers, contact me!


Recorded: The Librarian Linkover Podcast (June 2023)

Lorene Kennard, host of The Librarian Linkover podcast, interviewed me about my latest low morale study, “The Cornered Office – A Qualitative Study of Low-Morale Experiences in Formal Library Leaders.” Our discussion explores some impact factors of low-morale experiences for formal leaders and surfaces insight on who should be responsible for improving workplace culture and the importance of collective responses. Listen now.