Friday, July 06, 2007

Workplace bullying, innovation, and Library2.0

One of my favorite courses in my undergrad years was Organizational Behavior. (I think because I look at things systemically & holistically, so addressing the entire culture of an organization is intriguing to me... my anthropology background probably also plays a role, but...)

I've been cogitating on the issues of Library2.0 and innovation. What stops us from just doing things that would move us into the realm of Library2.0 - which would take us to the next level? There are many reasons. But, if you look at the issue honestly, few of them have to do with a lack of funding (especially since so many Web2.0 tools are free & open-source). Instead, they have to do with organizational culture.

An issue that I'm timid to mention, partially because if you haven't been exposed to the concept, you'll find it hard to believe that it's really out there in library land - but that really has an effect on our organizational cultures is how people treat one another - specifically I'm talking about workplace bullying.

From -"A bully is defined as '.... a person who is unable and unwilling to recognize the effect of their behavior on others, does not want to know of any other way of behaving, and is unwilling to recognize that there could be better ways of behaving.' This mindset leads to excluding colleagues socially, yelling, peristent criticism, and purposefully designing tasks for failure."

(I'm also nervous to write about it because of the political climate that prefers us not to talk about such things in libraries... and just so we're clear, I'm not trying to say that I personally haven't been anything but fortunate in my working life thusfar in libraries, but I have seen things and heard things over the years that inform this posting... don't forget, I've roamed far and wide and provided support for many libraries over many years... I've been to many conferences and networked with many librarians.)

But isn't it telling that I have a terror in the pit of my stomach as I write this? We need more transparency. We need to have this discussion, painful though it may be. Libraries are still part of the larger world. As workplace bullying increases in the larger world, is it possible that it increases in the library world? The demographics of bullying show that a majority (albeit slim) of workplace bullies are female bosses (58%). 80% of bullying targets are also female. Hierarchical organizations tend to breed bullies. Widening age gaps tend to lead to bullying. Do any of these characteristics fit today's libraries?

So, for libraries who have people whose sole goal is to deconstruct projects or to subvert them subtly but ultimately destroy those projects, I ask you this -- how can you ever expect to move forward? Your employees' energies are entirely focused on staying out of the line of fire and it's an effort just to show up for work every day in an environment characterized by bullying. And for those of you in shops that may or may not have workplace bullies, who think that you're safe because you're not currently the one with the target painted on your back, I can only say that workplace bullying is destructive to the entire ecosystem of innovation. If you have bullies, you'll never move beyond Library1.0.

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