Report Update: Barriers to Authenticity for BIPOC Academic Librarians (February 2022)

This update offers more qualitative data offered by respondents to my ongoing survey on deauthenticity – please participate if this topic resonates with you; and you can review earlier data 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 one of the survey’s final questions,“What do you believe may happen at your workplace or in your library career if you do not engage in deauthentication?”

  • :”That my full self will not be accepted. I feel like I don’t have much in common with my colleagues. So opening up more will make me feel and be more isolated.”
  • “Increased microagressions that would occur if I, for instance, wore a hair wrap would add to my own tension at work and make me a worse candidate for promotion and opportunities.”
  • “I fear that I may be dismissed or not given the same option for advancement. I fear that I won’t be taken seriously.”
  • “The white folk would be horrified beyond what they already are by the “troubling vision” (Nicole Fleetwood) of my mere presence on the campus and in the library. I am in a position previously held by what one long-time employee terms as (two) “racist white women”, who worked here for many years until retirement. I would likely be targeted for some form of sabotage in order to get rid of me and return to the status quo maintained and upheld by the two aforementioned ‘Racist white women.'”
  • “I have at times in my career been a more authentic version of myself more consistently at work. It resulted in extreme feelings of isolation from my direct colleagues which eventually turned into overt hostility.”
  • “I have been lucky to have worked in very liberal institutions with fairly open people. most of what i did was self imposed to “fit in” but i also recognize that that culture influenced my behavior even without the danger of getting attacked. i do know however that there is an invisible line that even liberals do not allow. and as a poc i won’t know if i am there until someone informs me and I’m 100% sure it’ll be both undeserved and unexpected.”
  • “I would be in a leadership/administration,”
  • “I will feel free.”

These data highlight additional Enabling Systems and also reveal the kinds of abuse and/or neglect this group are subjected to during their low-morale experiences, including:

  • Racism
  • Whiteness
  • White Supremacy
  • Promotion and Tenure
  • System abuse
  • Emotional abuse

Read more about the general and *additional* Enabling Systems that racial and ethnic minorities face in their library workplaces in my published study (done with Ione T. Damasco, University of Dayton).

Works Cited

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

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Reserved: The Renewal Colloquium @ Alaska Library Association (February 2022)

On February 24, I’ll be leading a Renewal Colloquium for attendees at the 2022 Alaska Library Association Conference. This year the conference will be held virtually. The event is slated for 4:30P AKST. Learn more.

Low Morale, COVID-19, & Ambiguous Loss

One of the things my original low morale study surfaced is how grief shows up in the experience. Many participants described their grief using the terminology of Elizabeth Kübler-Ross’ Grief model: denial, anger, bargaining, even acceptance:

“…You know, as the stages of grief are not clear cut and you stop one and go on to another one. They all kind of enter or leave, they’re all affected by what’s going on in your life or outside of work, in your life in general, in the world in general. I’ll admit: for the last week, hopelessness has been really high on my list of things I’m feeling. But I’m just trying to take a deep breath and move on from all of that and work toward that acceptance.” – Acquisitions librarian participant

“[My experience] was one of those things where you go through the stages of grief. [Laughs] It’s like, ‘Oh I’m in denial,’ and then ‘oh, now I’m in anger.’  I don’t know if I’ll ever reach acceptance. Yeah…then now I’m kind of in the – in that – I don’t remember what all five stages are – right now I’m definitely, I guess you could call it acceptance, but it’s not a – like I’ve accepted it that it’s happened, but I’ve not accepted that it’s ok that it happened.” – Special Collections librarian participant

My low morale studies have continued throughout the Pandemic – since 2020 I’ve published two more studies and am in epoché on another. I’ve also been gathering data on the impact of the Pandemic on already established low-morale experiences, and I’ve been offering live Renewal Colloqiua for organizations. In each of these spaces of collegial contact, echoes of grief continue surfacing, and they are tied to how libraries are (not) responding to the Pandemic. While general conversations contextualize this Pandemic grieving as collective, my deep work tells me something more: library employees are also dealing with ambiguous loss while being exposed to the trauma of workplace abuse and neglect.

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Ambiguous Loss

Ambiguous Loss is a term coined by researcher Pauline Boss, who defined the state in two ways – both centering the nature of presence and absence:

  • physical absence with psychological presence  – the outcome or physical status of the person is not known but they remain in loved ones thoughts and unresolved emotions (e.g,, missing persons or bodies due to war, terror, catastrophic natural disasters)
  • physical presence with psychological absence – a person is physically present but cognitively or emotionally absent, resulting in unresolved or conflicting emotions (e.g., due to Alzheimer’s, brain injury, etc.)

While ambiguous losses are large, there are also more ordinary forms of this phenonemon. In the former iteration, ordinary ambiguous loss could manifest through divorce, adoption, and the like; in the latter iteration, ambiguous loss could manifest in preoccupation with work, or missing familiar surroundings (Boss 2006, pp. 7-8). At its core, Boss notes that while ambiguous loss is ‘ubiquitous’ in our modern society, it’s hallmark is a “dissonance/incongruence between absence and presence” in human relationships (Boss, n.d.). I posit that since

  • librarianship centers human relationships and
  • those human relationships have been traditionally cultivated in physical spaces – the library;
  • during the Pandemic, library workers have been experiencing both aspects of ambiguous loss, and
  • ongoing library responses to the Pandemic have exacerbated this unique loss cycle through enabling systems and frameworks connected to workplace abuse and neglect.

Physical absence; pyschological presence

At the beginning of the Pandemic, library workers immediately dealt with the conflict of wanting to close library buildings and keep community users (and themselves) safe, but also they also were very worried about how to maintain the deep relationships they cultivated with library users, who were now unexpectedly “missing” (suddenly not able to come to the library for an uncertain period of time) . To alleviate this conflict, many libraries created curbside services; however, several employees also resented these services, which continued to place library workers and community members at risk. Herein we see that incongruence between absence and presence, as well as the unresolved emotional conflict that came up as library workers’ thoughts of their “missing” patrons clashed with their feelings about how to keep them present.  It should also be noted that many library workers also found themselves suddenly cut off from their daily face-to-face interactions with co-workers, and a similar emotional conflict arose when library leaders made inconsistent decisions to allow some workers to work from home, while others were mandated to work on-site.

Physical presence; pyschological absence

As the Pandemic continues, library workers find themselves either continuing work in libraries that never closed, or back in libraries that are “fully open,” often dealing with inconsistent mask mandates or rapidly changing public health guidelines. Additionally, workers are noting that the politicized nature of public health where the Pandemic is concerned has increased their feelings of being unsafe at work. Moreover, there are library workers who realized that their work can be done remotely, yet find themselves forced to come back on-site and are now grappling with the resultant reduced productivity (while longing to be back off-site so they can resume their more productive workflows). And there are those workers who are concerned about their family’s well-being as they try to manage daily workplace exposure to the virus and its variants.

At press time, my COVID-19 study shows that library workers in all kinds of libraries have  experienced upticks in burnout (80%), vocational awe (72%), and resilience narrative (79%) exposure. Qualitative data also disclose that library workers contend(ed) with non-existent communication from their library or municipal leaders, and more recently, Twitter conversations and threads reveal that library workers are considering leaving the profession as a result of these framework exposures and reduced feelings of workplace safety.

In short: while librarians are who are working on-site may be reporting to the physical building, they are no longer as directly engaged while they are there. Furthermore, they are experiencing emotional conflict on what they should do next. This unresolved conflict is an echo of my 2017 study, where participants shared that they felt guilty about wanting to leave because they want to help their communities, but were tired of being abused at work.

The unresolved feelings from ambiguous loss in librarianship will have significant impact on service provision in our libraries, as well as retention in the field.  We must keep up the calls for/do the work of:

  • expanding library advocacy to include and prioritize the people who work in libraries;
  • reimagining and applying workplace policies that dismantle or reduce the impacts of enabling systems in library workplaces;
  • enacting self-preservation in our daily and long-term work- and personal lives; and
  • promoting improved access to mental health services.

“There are times when resiliency is not the answer – a change in policy is the answer, or a change in some kind of other way of doing things.” – Dr. Pauline Boss

How does ambiguous loss resonate with you when it comes to the recent experience of your career (or even as a part of your low-morale experience, regardless of the Pandemic)?

Works Cited

Boss, P. (2006). Loss, trauma, and resilience: Therapeutic work with Ambiguous Loss. New York: W.W. Norton.

Boss, P. (n.d.) Ambiguous Loss: Its Meaning and Application: Module 5. Minnesota: University of Minnesota

P.S. I want to make sure that I note: library workers are experiencing ambiguous loss as part of their career or in direct relation to their library workplace — and it is in addition to the collective grief they are dealing with as we attempt to make sense of the catastrophic human loss that the Pandemic has caused in our communities, our nation, and around the world.

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Report Update: Deauthentication Survey Results (February 2022)

This report offers an update on deauthentication, an impact factor that Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) face while dealing with workplace abuse and neglect (low morale). You can review earlier quantitative reports here and here (as well as qualitative data here). Also, you can read more about this impact factor, as well as the other additional impact factor and several additional Enabling Systems that BIPOC face – in my published study written with Ione T. Damasco (University of Dayton). As a short review from my original revelation of the phenonenon as I analyzed the data in 2018:

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 results reflect 136 responses (up from 108 responses in June 2019).

  • 32% African-American; 22% Multi-racial; 21% Asian; 4% American Indian/Alaska Native
  • 25% Latino
  • 87% female
  • 82% have engaged in deauthentication
  • 75% have reduced or avoided conversations about personal or family relationships
  • 71% have reduced or avoided discussions of religion, politics, or social viewpoints
  • 68% have reduced or avoided conversations about cultural or ethnic (formal or informal) traditions
  • 61% have changed or (re)considered creating or sharing content on their social media accounts
  • 54% have changed or (re)considered clothing presentation
  • 58% have reduced or avoided conversations about non-work related activities, hobbies, or interests
  • 54% have changed or (re)considered clothing presentation
  • 52% have changed or reconsidered body movements or non-verbal behaviors
  • 45% have changed accent, speaking tone, or language structure

The survey remains open, and I will periodically share updates on this blog.

Works Cited

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

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Report Update: Academic Library Low Morale Spot-Check Survey Results (January 2022)

Since 2018, I’ve been gathering and reporting information on the up-t0-the-moment concerns academic librarians have been considering during their low-morale experiences (you may review previous reports here, here, and here). A secondary purpose of this data collection project is to offer people a place to share anonymously their immediate concerns about their low-morale experience or offer feedback about the study. The survey remains open – please participate (are you a public library employee? Here’s your spot-check survey)!

As a reminder, low morale as the result of repeated and protracted exposure to emotional, verbal/written, and systemic abuse or negligence in the workplace (Kendrick 2017).

The following results reflect 150 responses (up from 131 responses in March 2020). These quantitative statistics seem to stay relatively stable:

  1. 99% of respondents have witnessed or experienced low morale in academic environments.
  2. 54% of respondents are “front-line” employees (i.e., not supervisors, managers, department heads, or administrators); 21% are managers; 6% are administrators.
  3. 82% of respondents indicate that their current workplace has low-morale issues.

The following data, a response to the query, “What issues of low morale are you concerned with?” show a depth and breadth of issues faced by library employees who are dealing with low morale in academic library workplaces; you can see abuse types (emotional, system, oral/written, neglect), as well as related frameworks (e.g., burnout; resilience narratives) and various Enabling Systems (e.g., Human Resources limitations):

  • “Bullying, verbal abuse, unclear expectations and direction – as well as more insidious/broader issues like how library staff can practice good self-care, and how libraries can be more thoughtful about initiatives that align with librarianship’s core values in ways that are achievable and don’t just ‘pile on’ already overburdened staff. (Whew, that was a lot)”
  • “Co-worker creating hostile work environment. Co-worker gets away with it.”
  • “Upper management not caring. Also, newer staff being overworked almost as soon as they arrive — I’ve even seen junior colleagues reaching out to get not-yet onboarded new hires onto their work teams. I also see a lot of discussions happening in private around this topic — we need to surface the issues locally rather than talk around them.”
  • “Bullying, relational aggression, sexual transgressions, lack of discipline, weak authority for managers, absenteeism, burn out, perfectionism.”
  • “All of them. The article could have been written about me.”
  • “We need to know how to better resolve conflict and have open discussions instead of turning everthing into a personality conflict! We need to improve civility and stop bullying and mobbing in our workplaces.”
  • “In previous jobs, the concern was about the folks in charge – the university librarian, library director and assistant director, etc. Currently, the worry is more about funding, budget cuts, staff layoffs, etc. There are so many things we can’t control, yet they affect people’s lives!”

Periodically, I’ll share updates or thoughts and ideas as more responses come in.

Works Cited

Kendrick, K.D. (2017). The low-morale experience of academic librarians: A phenomenological study. Journal of Library Administration, 57(8): 846-878. Retrieved from http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/01930826.2017.1368325

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Launched: Renewals Coaching

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I’m thrilled to share that I’m adding workplace and career coaching to Renewals services!  Renewals Coaching focuses on 1) people who want to transition from dysfunctional workplaces or careers, 2) people who need support while working in dysfunctional workplaces or careers, and/or 3) people who have faced low morale and want to prepare for wholehearted entry to a new organization, workplace, or industry. Renewals Coaching is grounded in my extensive research on low morale and supported by over a decade of experience helping people navigate job searches and improve their earning potential through professional communication strategies.

If you…

  • Are currently employed at a dysfunctional workplace and are seeking new employment or a career change;
  • Have recently left a dysfunctional workplace and need clarity on presenting or repositioning your skillset(s);
  • Want to make a career change and are having trouble visualizing your next move;
  • Realize you may need to stay in a dysfunctional workplace and are ready to apply self-preservation techniques or empathetic leadership strategies;
  • Need general encouragement or clarity while dealing with a low-morale experience or acute or chronic workplace dysfunction; or
  • Have recently joined a new organization after dealing with low morale and want to make strides in recalibrating self-compassion, authenticy, professional confidence, and trust as you acclimate to your new organization,

Renewals Coaching is for you. Individual and group coaching options are available. Request a consultation.

Red Flag: Resilience Narratives

Resilience narratives place individuals in charge of filling in or taking responsibility for system failures (Berg, Galvan, & Tewell 2018). People who are faced with such narratives often hear colloquialisms like “do more with less,” or, upon sharing their workplace concerns about lack of resources or support, are admonished to have “grit.” When resilience narratives are enacted on low morale victims, they often (are made to) feel guilty for asking for support or their requests for assistance may be weaponized against them. Resilience narrative data show up in all of my low morale studies, as indicated below (Note: for public librarians dealing with low morale, resilience narrative exposure is elevated to an impact factorsee study).

“[I]t was our new chief academic officer. You know, the one saying, ‘if the student assistants don’t make enough progress at the end of the day, then you all are expected to stay however late you need to into the night and make sure that daily quota is met,’ and that, to me was just like…you know, this is not, you know – I don’t know, it made me think of the movie Norma Rae [Laughs], you know, where you have these workers who are just treated like property, without any consideration for their well-being, because you just want the work done, you know – and since you want it done, it’s going to be done, regardless of the cost. Certainly not what I think the environment in higher education is supposed to be – the work environment.”Low Morale in Academic Librarians study participant (administrator), circa 2016

“…[W]e went through the whole search process and then they cut it and expected us to be open 24 hours with student workers. Unsupervised student workers… We had to start immediately ‘how are we going to do these hours.’ We had to hire new students and train them, and so it sort of put us into sort of like, panic mode – like, we’ve got to put out this fire because we need to hire someone last week to get them trained to do this in a couple of days, you know? So it kind of put where we almost didn’t have time to react because we had to hit the ground running, you know? Like, we were so busy, too, trying to compensate for it, that we that we had to hit the ground running.”Low Morale in Academic Librarians study participant (media information services), circa 2016

“The problem is that administration doesn’t support it. Like they support us but we have to ban these, the people. We ban them from the library but then what administration does is they’re like, ‘Well, you know, maybe you shouldn’t have banned them for this amount of time. You know. What did you do differently?’ I was like, ‘I was called a [expletive], what did you expect me to do?’ You know?”Low Morale in Public Librarians study participant (Spanish outreach services), circa 2019

Works Cited

Berg, J., Galvan, A, & Tewell, E. (2018). Responding to and reimagining resilience in academic librariesJournal of New Librarianship, 3(1): 1- 4.

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Report: The Renewal Colloquium for Chief Officers of State Library Agencies (December 2021)

Two weeks ago, the Chief Officers of State Library Agencies (COSLA) held their Continuing Education Forum and invited me to lead a  Renewal Colloquium. Just under 50 were in attendance at the event, which was held virtually. 

This reports shares some attendee data generated from the event’s pre-work activities, along with some data from the session’s evaluation survey.

Pre-Colloquium Questionnaire Highlights

  • Library Type
    • 62% Other
  • Represented areas of practice
    • 56% Other
  • Career length
    • 66% 10 years or more
  • Topic Interest
    • 26% Emerging countermeasures and best practices to reduce/interrupt low morale
    • 24% Identifying and cultivating positive leadership styles

Goals for attending the Colloquium

  • “Understanding and communicating strategies to mitigate low morale.”
  • “[L]earning to ‘press pause’.”
  • “How low morale impacts an organizations, and what leaders at all levels can do to counteract and correct”
  • “I want to get closer to understanding how to properly address issues with burnout and resilience culture with supervisors and how to facilitate actual organizational change concerning these issues, because as a librarian with multiple invisible disabilities, this is a subject very near and dear to me.”
  • “How to support/encourage teammates suffering from low morale and/or burnout.”

 Low-Morale Experience Survey Highlights 

  • Have you experienced low morale?
    • 75% Yes
  • Length of low-morale experience
    • 35% More than three years
  • Perpetrators of abuse
    • 32%  Library supervisors or managers; 27% Library supervisors or managers
  • Types of workplace abuse experienced:
    • 34% Emotional; 30% Verbal/written
  • Feelings experienced during low morale:
    • 15% Frustration
  • What contributed to low-morale experience?
    • 12% Uncertainty & Mistrust; 10% Leadership Styles
  • Behaviors noted/considered:
    • TIE: 17% A desire to change careers; Decreased professional engagement; Decreased work productivity
    • 16% Decreased willingness to collaborate.

Colloquium Evaluation Report Highlights

Things learned or more clearly defined:

“The concepts of legacy toxicity and crossfire were a little unclear to me prior to this, but the Colloquium really made me understand them and how I’d been affected by them or seen them in action before.”

“Being able to more clearly define toxic leadership characteristics. Thank you so much.”

”The information that Kaetrena shared on the low-morale of library administrators was extremely informative and helpful. The information about the various impact factors was new to me and provides me with a better understanding of what library administrators are experiencing.”

Share how attending this Colloquium may influence your daily or long-term library practice:

“I think this is going to impact me both as a leader and as part of the staff responding to leadership, actually, but the encouragement on setting boundaries really hit home, not just as an employee but setting boundaries as a leader and thus leading by example. Developing a more equitable and supportive work culture has to start somewhere, and refusing to lay down the expectation that people can and should do more with less is something that I want to take with me.

“It helps me to consider past trauma that people might be arriving with, and to show up with compassion and understanding.”

“It will allow me to better understand my leadership style and shortcomings I may not have noticed before.”

Recovery plans (personally or at work):

“I think the most helpful were the tips on assertive communication and boundaries. One of the aha moments for me was when you spoke about how we know when our boundaries have been crossed. We feel uncomfortable, we have internal dialogue. Wow! How come no one has ever told me this before! (and how come I’ve never put that together?) I’ve been working on trying to let people know my boundaries for at least a decade, and I think this is the most helpful advice I’ve been given about the topic. It makes perfect sense to recognize it and then talk about it.

“I just came from a terrible situation. I am only a [bit] into this new position and I clearly need to pay closer attention to what I am carrying with me from that experience.

“Thankfully, I am in a good place right now. But this training definitely made me think back to previous experiences and how they could have gone differently.”

Topics recommended for discussion/consideration:

“Would have liked more time for the info at the end about solutions beyond self-care. So much good information about collaborative care, self-preservation, empathy.”

“The idea of FAIRNESS, as an “essential” worker during covid -I had to be in the building – while others are at home, ESPECIALLY seeing large private offices empty, (when management could open a window and close their door and still work safely in the building.)”

Ready to host a Renewal ColloquiumLet’s plan your event!

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Published Low Morale Studies

This post reflects a record of the published studies I’ve done on low-morale experiences. It will be updated as studies are published, so bookmark this post if you’re following my research agenda on this phenomenon.

Kendrick, K.D. (2021). Leaving the low-morale experience: A qualitative study. Alki, 37(2): 9-24.

Kendrick, K.D. (2021). The public librarian low-morale experience: A qualitative study. Partnership: The Canadian Journal of Library & Information Practice and Research/Revue canadienne de la practique et le recherché en bibliothequèconomie et science de l’information, 15(2): 1-32.

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

Kendrick, K. D. (2017). The low morale experience of academic librarians: A phenomenological study. Journal of Library Administration, 57(8): 846-878. doi: 10.1080/01930826.2017.1368325  

Recorded: Library Leadership Podcast (November 2021)

Library Leadership Podcast host Adriane Juarez recently invited me to discuss my low-morale studies and how they can inform formal library leaders who want to improve their organization’s cultures, as well as some impact factors that may be influencing their own experiences.

Listen to the episode.