Library Workplace Engagement: A Study of Library Workers Engagement in Their Day-to-Day Work
A much talked about 2012 Pew Research Center study found about 25% of American workers are actively engaged in the workplace and about the same number are actively disengaged. The rest of American workers fall somewhere between the two poles. A more recent study by Gallup found similar numbers of workplace engagement. These numbers are alarming for a number of reasons. Actively engaged employees are more satisfied in their jobs, and they are more likely to innovate and move into leadership positions. Actively disengaged employees are unhappy in their work and are typically “dead wood” in their organization. But more than that actively disengaged employees foment dissent, cause conflict, and move medium to low engaged employees to become actively disengaged. They can even hamper the ability of highly engaged workers to do their jobs.
Scholarly research on workplace engagement has shown that engagement and burnout are two poles on the workplace behavior spectrum. Burnout can be defined as exhaustion, cynicism, and reduced efficacy in daily work. Engagement can defined as much the opposite: energy, involvement, and high efficacy. Very little has been written about engagement in the library workplace. Much has been written on self-care and managing stress in order to avoid burnout in libraries, but this approach sees burnout as strictly a product of too much work. While some people’s burnout can be attributed to too much work and a lack of self-care, most cases of burnout are a slow process that starts with a lack of engagement in day-to-day work. What starts as restlessness slowly morphs into boredom which then evolves into cynicism and the negative behaviors of burnout.
This study sought to understand the level of engagement in libraries as a workplace. The Utrecht Work Engagement Scale (UWES) uses 17 questions to determine an individual’s engagement in their work. The survey measures the three factors of vigor, dedication, and absorption in work to measure workplace engagement. Participants are asked to answer questions on how they feel at work and how often they feel that way. This survey was sent to multiple ALA listservs.
The respondents to this study reported average levels of workplace engagement and its three components of vigor, dedication, and absorption. Differences in level of engagement were found by gender of the respondents, the type of library in which they worked, the position they held in the library, and what kind of work they performed, but the differences were small. Analysis of the qualitative responses revealed six factors that influenced respondents’ workplace engagement: workload, work fit, and work expectations; recognition; culture and environment; leadership; health; and meaning.
A PDF of the poster is available here.