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Caution! Hazardous Substances: Recognizing and Deflecting Toxic Personalities in the Library Workplace Bennett, Freier, Riley ACRL Baltimore March 30,

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Presentation on theme: "Caution! Hazardous Substances: Recognizing and Deflecting Toxic Personalities in the Library Workplace Bennett, Freier, Riley ACRL Baltimore March 30,"— Presentation transcript:

1 Caution! Hazardous Substances: Recognizing and Deflecting Toxic Personalities in the Library Workplace Bennett, Freier, Riley ACRL Baltimore March 30, 2007 Toxicity Defined More than just difficult people and management situations First used in late 1980s in business literature (Peter Frost) An ongoing work situation that is painful, personally difficult and uncomfortable through a special combination of factors

2 Caution! Hazardous Substances: Recognizing and Deflecting Toxic Personalities in the Library Workplace Bennett, Freier, Riley ACRL Baltimore March 30, 2007 Toxicity Defined Hostile, unreasonable or emotionally distressing behavior with many causes Temporary toxicity – things happen, like illness and death, to upset situations Inevitable toxicity– Structures and people Hypotheses: A serious problem in libraries Seven main reasons Worse in some areas

3 Caution! Hazardous Substances: Recognizing and Deflecting Toxic Personalities in the Library Workplace Bennett, Freier, Riley ACRL Baltimore March 30, 2007 Web Survey Done in early 2007 Widespread interest confirmed our first hypothesis (almost 3000 respondents!) Results confirmed our second (the reasons) Results did not confirm our third (differences)

4 Caution! Hazardous Substances: Recognizing and Deflecting Toxic Personalities in the Library Workplace Bennett, Freier, Riley ACRL Baltimore March 30, 2007 Methodology Survey Monkey online tool Posted link to seven different library listservs Covered all types of libraries with no restriction on location One respondent per IP address Questions based on hypotheses

5 Caution! Hazardous Substances: Recognizing and Deflecting Toxic Personalities in the Library Workplace Bennett, Freier, Riley ACRL Baltimore March 30, 2007 How Does This Help? Find the questions, find the answers Emotional intelligence is a powerful tool We can recognize and deflect toxicity

6 Caution! Hazardous Substances: Recognizing and Deflecting Toxic Personalities in the Library Workplace Bennett, Freier, Riley ACRL Baltimore March 30, 2007 Toxic Personalities and the People Who Enable Them Mary P. (Mollie) Freier

7 Caution! Hazardous Substances: Recognizing and Deflecting Toxic Personalities in the Library Workplace Bennett, Freier, Riley ACRL Baltimore March 30, 2007 How serious is the problem? Selected results from a survey of emotional toxicity in the library workplace

8 Caution! Hazardous Substances: Recognizing and Deflecting Toxic Personalities in the Library Workplace Bennett, Freier, Riley ACRL Baltimore March 30, 2007 Are you currently in a workplace with hostile, unreasonable, or emotionally distressing behavior? Total Respondents = 2,857 No 1, % Yes 1, %

9 Caution! Hazardous Substances: Recognizing and Deflecting Toxic Personalities in the Library Workplace Bennett, Freier, Riley ACRL Baltimore March 30, 2007 Have you experienced significant problems in a workplace due to emotionally distressing behavior by your colleagues? Total respondents = 2,875 Yes 2, % No %

10 Caution! Hazardous Substances: Recognizing and Deflecting Toxic Personalities in the Library Workplace Bennett, Freier, Riley ACRL Baltimore March 30, 2007 Total respondents = 2,741 Serious 1, % Noticeable % Moderate % Major % Minor % How serious were/are the problems in the workplace caused by this behavior?

11 Caution! Hazardous Substances: Recognizing and Deflecting Toxic Personalities in the Library Workplace Bennett, Freier, Riley ACRL Baltimore March 30, 2007 Total respondents = 2,824 No 1, % Yes 1, % People are thinking of leaving

12 Caution! Hazardous Substances: Recognizing and Deflecting Toxic Personalities in the Library Workplace Bennett, Freier, Riley ACRL Baltimore March 30, 2007 “I will be leaving this library as soon as I find other employment.” “If I'd known professional life was like this I'd have stayed at Target.” “it's making me consider leaving the library profession”

13 Caution! Hazardous Substances: Recognizing and Deflecting Toxic Personalities in the Library Workplace Bennett, Freier, Riley ACRL Baltimore March 30, 2007 Total respondents = 2,832 Yes % No 1, % People are leaving

14 Caution! Hazardous Substances: Recognizing and Deflecting Toxic Personalities in the Library Workplace Bennett, Freier, Riley ACRL Baltimore March 30, 2007 Total respondents = 2,363 No % Yes 1, % Not sure % Does friction between departments contribute to toxic situation?

15 Caution! Hazardous Substances: Recognizing and Deflecting Toxic Personalities in the Library Workplace Bennett, Freier, Riley ACRL Baltimore March 30, 2007 Total respondents = 2,723 Permanent personality reasons 1,469 54% Administrative or structural problem in library % Employee illness 33 1% Ill-defined job duties or unqualified employee % Temporary personal situation % Employee death 0 0% Illness or death of relative 6 0.2% Other or no idea % Causes of workplace toxicity

16 Caution! Hazardous Substances: Recognizing and Deflecting Toxic Personalities in the Library Workplace Bennett, Freier, Riley ACRL Baltimore March 30, 2007 Total respondents = 2,802 Administration or other % Public Services % Technical Services % No difference between areas or no toxic situations 1, % Area in which Toxic Situation is Most Prevalent

17 Caution! Hazardous Substances: Recognizing and Deflecting Toxic Personalities in the Library Workplace Bennett, Freier, Riley ACRL Baltimore March 30, 2007 Total respondents = 2,692 More than three years % More than one but less than three years % More than a few months but less than a year % A few months % A few weeks % Duration of the Toxic Situation

18 Caution! Hazardous Substances: Recognizing and Deflecting Toxic Personalities in the Library Workplace Bennett, Freier, Riley ACRL Baltimore March 30, 2007 Reasons for toxicity (frequent open-ended responses) Unions/tenure—or lack of unions/tenure Poor communication/lack of communication Administration/manager/supervisor It’s innate

19 Caution! Hazardous Substances: Recognizing and Deflecting Toxic Personalities in the Library Workplace Bennett, Freier, Riley ACRL Baltimore March 30, 2007 Unions/Tenure Both of these make it difficult to correct toxicity in personnel situations Both of these also protect employees from arbitrary personnel actions

20 Caution! Hazardous Substances: Recognizing and Deflecting Toxic Personalities in the Library Workplace Bennett, Freier, Riley ACRL Baltimore March 30, 2007 Communication Many survey respondents commented on poor communication Rude communication is apparently a problem for some workplaces Unclear or nonexistent job descriptions make it impossible to convey expectations

21 Caution! Hazardous Substances: Recognizing and Deflecting Toxic Personalities in the Library Workplace Bennett, Freier, Riley ACRL Baltimore March 30, 2007 “Bad administrators can ruin your whole day” “My first boss was certifiable to the point that I daily looked for ways to push her over the edge so she would go home.”

22 Caution! Hazardous Substances: Recognizing and Deflecting Toxic Personalities in the Library Workplace Bennett, Freier, Riley ACRL Baltimore March 30, 2007 Administration/supervisor Toxic administration outside of library No supervisory training for managers Administrator/supervisor modeling toxic behavior Micro-managing Not being aware of toxicity in the library (and not being interested in finding out) Not doing anything about toxicity

23 Caution! Hazardous Substances: Recognizing and Deflecting Toxic Personalities in the Library Workplace Bennett, Freier, Riley ACRL Baltimore March 30, 2007 Question? What’s the distinction between micro-managing and taking a healthy, supportive interest in your staff’s well-being?

24 Caution! Hazardous Substances: Recognizing and Deflecting Toxic Personalities in the Library Workplace Bennett, Freier, Riley ACRL Baltimore March 30, 2007 You said it (not me!).... Women can’t work together. The kind of people who are attracted to librarianship are just not good at working with other people Librarianship attracts people who are conflict-averse, so they won’t do anything to fix a toxic situation if it might provoke a confrontation

25 Caution! Hazardous Substances: Recognizing and Deflecting Toxic Personalities in the Library Workplace Bennett, Freier, Riley ACRL Baltimore March 30, 2007 “Women should unite instead of taking every chance to bring each other down.” “women tend to target other women” “males tend to beat on their chests when other males approach 'their' territory” “women shouldn't work with other women”

26 Caution! Hazardous Substances: Recognizing and Deflecting Toxic Personalities in the Library Workplace Bennett, Freier, Riley ACRL Baltimore March 30, 2007 “menopause--I have asked again and again for this to be addressed through workshops or at conferences”

27 Caution! Hazardous Substances: Recognizing and Deflecting Toxic Personalities in the Library Workplace Bennett, Freier, Riley ACRL Baltimore March 30, 2007 Women Women have been conditioned to compete for male attention Even when women try to support each other, problems arise in terms of who is supposed to take charge, what happens when a mentee becomes an equal, and how women deal with competition for promotions

28 Caution! Hazardous Substances: Recognizing and Deflecting Toxic Personalities in the Library Workplace Bennett, Freier, Riley ACRL Baltimore March 30, 2007 Women Women need to learn how to compete with other women without feeling betrayed when competition happens (and it will)

29 Caution! Hazardous Substances: Recognizing and Deflecting Toxic Personalities in the Library Workplace Bennett, Freier, Riley ACRL Baltimore March 30, 2007 “The profession attracts strange and wonderful people, sometimes they're just strange.” “Insane, anti-social, misfits, a.k.a., librarians”

30 Caution! Hazardous Substances: Recognizing and Deflecting Toxic Personalities in the Library Workplace Bennett, Freier, Riley ACRL Baltimore March 30, 2007 Who are we attracting to librarianship? If we are attracting difficult personalities to librarianship, why is this happening? How can we keep it from happening? Are the people who are already here incapable of working effectively with others?

31 Caution! Hazardous Substances: Recognizing and Deflecting Toxic Personalities in the Library Workplace Bennett, Freier, Riley ACRL Baltimore March 30, 2007 Conflict-averse? Librarians are passive- aggressive Librarians avoid conflict People who came to the profession thought that librarians were timorous, and have learned differently (to their cost) Librarians are apparently quite capable of being assertive—when they’re being toxic


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