Library Leaders

November 17, 2006

Organisational respect and burnout

Filed under: employee issues,management issues — wenlib @ 3:26 pm

Knowledge @ Wharton ( has an interesting article this week on employee burnout, and the importance of staff feeling that their work is respected. 

A familiar example: “Barsade, for example, cites a project she did for the real estate, accounting and legal departments of a large financial services agency. ‘The people in these departments were known as “non-producers”. That wasn’t their formal title, but it was what they were called because they were not revenue generators…”

Libraries can easily fit into this trap as well. The current and ongoing woes of the staff of the Health Canada libraries is a clear example. Because the political decision-makers do not value the services of the libraries, they are under threat of closure -employee stress climbs.  In other workplaces, it may be more subtle, as seen with the “non-producers” epithet.

The article goes on to describe some of the questions used to measure “respect” . Staff feel respected when they are treated with dignity ; when their ideas receive attention from supervisors ; when cultural diversity is valued ; and when staff are encouraged to be creative when solving problems. 

I worked for a time in a very large firm – and bless them, they tried to make staff feel appreciated. They had superstar programs, and encouraged staff to recognise special efforts and distributed kitschy gee-gaws. It all rang hollow. Ultimately, it’s what you experience between your immediate supervisor and your officemates which make you feel as though your work matters.

As leaders, how well do we receive information/ideas from others?  Do we allow our staff to be creative and to take reasonable risks?  (Very hard to weigh the benefits of letting a junior learn from a mistake vs making sure something is done right the first time).  Are we burning out our employees by doing all their thinking for them?



1 Comment »

  1. I whole-heartedly agree with the idea of respecting the people we work with. I am writing an article about working with different generations, and feel respect is the key no matter what generation a person is in. We make so much about the differences, but there are so many things we all have in common.

    I have long encouraged staff members (I prefer to use the phrase co-workers actually) to be creative and define their own goals and projects. Where we have a group goal or project, I try to let people define how they are going to do the work as much as possible. This is difficult from someone who is a perfectionist and wants to do everything herself!

    I have, however, also made the mistake of giving too much freedom once in the past. It was with someone who was younger and really craved feedback. Not in a needy way, but I gave her free rein to define her work and she needed something more to bounce her ideas off. It took me a while to figure out how I was letting her down. But, there is a fine balance and may vary by the individuals’ needs.

    Comment by connie — November 22, 2006 @ 12:18 pm | Reply

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