Update: Just realized that our article is this month’s cover story for LJ. WOW!
I know some people really want to be named a Mover and Shaker by Library Journal. It is a great feeling to be honored like that… or at least it should be. But I think few people who have not yet been named a Mover and Shaker really think about how it might impact them at work; what their colleagues’, supervisors’ or administrators’ reactions might be. Ever since being named a Mover and Shaker myself in 2006, I’ve heard lots of stories from other honorees who’ve had negative experiences at work after being named a Mover and Shaker (though, to be fair, I’ve also heard lots of positive stories as well). For some, the award was ignored. For others, it was specific people (like their supervisor or director) who purposely ignored it. For others, it actually negatively impacted them at work because others were jealous or thought that the honoree was taking credit for all of the library’s success. One person told me their director yelled at them about it. My experience leaned towards the negative too, though it was not nearly as bad as other people’s stories. My Director forwarded an email from the Vermont Libraries listserv about it to everyone in the library with her congratulations, but no one else said a word about it to me. I ended up feeling embarrassed about it and from then on avoided mentioning anything about my book, speaking gigs, or anything else that I did outside of work. It sucked, because I felt badly, almost guilty, about something that should have left me walking on air. And lots of other people ended up feeling the same way. How can that not have some impact on the way they feel about their job?
I discussed this phenomenon with Chrystie Hill at the Mover and Shaker lunch at ALA Annual in 2007. At the blogger salon later that week, she mentioned the idea of writing something about this for Library Journal, and I said I definitely wanted in. At Internet Librarian in October, we sketched out our ideas for a survey of Movers and Shakers — not just to look at how their places of work reacted to the honor, but questions that really get at how libraries can support and motivate innovators in their organizations. We also looked at their concerns about their library and their goals for their library and themselves. In January, we sent a link to the survey out to all of the people named Movers and Shakers between 2002 and 2007 and got a 41% response rate, which was pretty great!
The fascinating responses we received became the basis for our article “What We Need” which appears in the October 1st edition of Library Journal. Through the survey, we discovered many of the critical elements that keep Movers and Shakers motivated and loving their work. We discovered what discourages them and how much actually being recognized for the good things we do really means. I hope anyone who manages people or wants to manage people in the future takes a look at this and really considers how they might be motivating or demotivating their staff. Because if the elements discussed in this article impact Movers and Shakers so profoundly, imagine the impact these elements have on your entire staff.
This is interesting as it mirrors my experience of winning an award in the UK. Whereas the school management were really thrilled and my friends in the wider world of school librarianship were supportive, I was really taken aback by the fact that my teacher colleagues either did not mention it at all or seemed almost hostile. It did not have the impact that I had hoped for at all!
This is interesting and dismaying when you consider all the time and effort spent writing about how we want people outside of the field to see us as professionals. Shouldn’t the achievements like being named a “Mover and a Shaker” be held up as an example of the great things librarians are doing? If an employee in advertising company or a law firm were named in a “30 Under 30” article, would that information be dismissed or used to further promote the company?
Exactly Andrea. And one person stated in the survey that her place of work realized that an honor to her was an honor for the institution. That’s how this stuff should be looked upon, but all too often, people think more about how it makes them look (to not have gotten such an honor when their colleague did) than how it makes the institution look.
I loved the article! Thanks to you & Chrystie for writing it. I’m not a Mover & Shaker, but I try to be an innovator, and I could identify with a lot of what you wrote about — good & bad.
Meredith, I read the article yesterday, and think that you make some important comments about organisational culture and the importance of acknowledging everyone who does something special. I’m also pleased that you remembered my comment on your 2006 posting about being a Mover & Shaker, and included it in the article. : )
“imagine the impact these elements have on your entire staff” this statement is key and I hope that directors see beyond the moving and shaking to what impact there is when the entire staff is motivated, rewarded, and given time to innovate, explore, and play. Yes we’re all short staffed. Yes we’ve all had our budgets cut. But this is why we need innovation more than ever. To explore new ways to serve our customers with less resources.
Too true, Lori.
Brenda, that comment of yours really resonated with me back in 2006 and I immediately thought of it when I was reading the survey results. I wonder what libraries can do to prevent that sort of “tall poppy” attitude from staff. I think more recognition (of all the good things staff do, not just the big awards) not less is the answer.
Since being recognized locally a few years ago for an innovative project, I have had similar negative repercussions (not entirely because of the recognition; also for the “mover and shaker” attitude that got the project done). My response now is to keep doing what I love, but to stay under the radar. I don’t want or need the extra recognition, especially when it comes with negative repercussions.
It’s kind of sad, and I look enviously at other library systems that foster a supportive and encouraging atmosphere. But it’s not going to stop me from doing the things I have a passion for.
That’s a great attitude you have, Carol. A lot of people would find your colleagues’ attitudes so discouraging that they might give up trying to go the extra mile for what they want to accomplish. It’s nice that you’ve found a way to still get things done, though it is sad that you don’t get the recognition you deserve.
I have had the honor of receiving two awards in one year. In my company this was received very well to my surprise. Management saw this as an indicator we have great staff with great skills. In a team meeting I was recognized for the awards and I stated that I could only do this by being in a supportive environment with management and team members that stimulate innovation and taking risks.
On a sidenote: why are the LJ Movers & Shakers limited to US librarians? There is a complete world outside the US 😉
I don’t think it’s ever been limited to JUST U.S. librarians because there are a number of Canadians who have been recognized (however, since it’s a U.S. publication and its readership is mostly American, it’s not shocking that most winners would be from the U.S.). However, this is the first year that the M&S award is open to any librarian ANYWHERE.
I’ve been thinking about this post for a couple of days and have a few comments to make from the non Mover and Shaker part of things. First, let me say that it is beyond rude not to congratulate a co-worker for winning an award or passing a rather large hurdle (especially when such a public announcement was made!). I’m lucky to work in a place that’s small enough and with friendly enough people that this sort of thing doesn’t bring up hard feelings.
That said, your post and the comments above are all from the award winning side of the argument. The other side would be the staff who *don’t* get to go to conferences (I admit a peeve of mine is seeing so much of the library’s budget going towards three people attending the same conference that never seems to benefit the library afterwards. Where are the innovations that came from the presentations? Why not report back and teach the rest of us what you learned?), who gets stuck working extra desk shifts when the innovators are all off at meetings or conferences, whose own smaller accomplishments may get overlooked in the shadow of a higher reaching employee. Who does your day to day work when you’re off doing other things? Does management take note of and appreciate the rest of the staff? Does this build up resentment? (BTW, that’s not a “you=Meredith” it’s just a generic “you.”) 🙂
A general reaction to these sort of complaints can be “you’re just jealous” or “why don’t you start putting yourself out there” which can seem sort of a shrug off. Not everyone wants to make their job such a big part of their life, but that doesn’t mean that they want to spend their work time compensating for those that do. Not everyone can.
My manager once won an association award and in her thank you speech she acknowledged that she couldn’t have done anything without her staff backing her up. And quite frankly, it’s true. Doing our jobs well (and parts of hers when she had to be away) is what gave her the time to reach out and contribute to the wider library field. But no one ever notices the back up.
Does this make sense? I’m not trying to start anything, or make it seem as though you don’t have a legitmate complaint, it’s just that there are two sides to every story and this may be part of the other side of yours. How management treats and assists innovators is important, but so is appreciating the day to day work that keeps things going.
I’d like to point out again that none of this is personal for me. We like it when people have special occasions/events/recognitions at my library. It gives us an excuse to have little parties in the back room. 🙂
Cathy, while we were looking at support through the lens of the Movers and Shakers, I think what we found is applicable for anyone working in libraries who cares about their work.
I do agree with you that people should be recognized for all of the good things they do, no matter how big or small. There was once a point when two of our reference librarians were out for a few months and another was out sick for a week. One colleague and I pretty much single-handedly covered reference at that time. And it was hard. I really appreciated that our Director recognized the good work we were doing. If we’d done that and didn’t get a word of thanks, I’d probably feel pretty discouraged. And believe me, after that, I greatly appreciate when anyone covers for me or assists me with anything, and I let them know about it. We’re a team and we all do that for each other. It shouldn’t be any other way.
In my case, the work I’d been recognized for was done largely before I started working at my job (and was done outside of work generally), and I hadn’t taken any time off to attend conferences prior to my M&S recognition (I’d only been working there for about 7 months at the time). So, I’m not sure that there was any resentment for anything I’d done or hadn’t done, though I also don’t think it was about jealousy, just a cultural thing with the organization.
I have found the article and the various discussions on the topic very interesting. And, noting that the support matter was being looked at through the eyes of the Movers and Shakers, I’m curious about the managers/administrators/institutions.
Why would they choose not to support or congratulate someone for the M&S honor? What is going on from the institutional point of view? I fully believe that an honor for an employee is an honor for the organization, but now I wonder if I’m missing something?
That would be a curious study.
Hi Gina. We’d tried to do a survey of managers and directors of Movers and Shakers, but only ended up with 9 respondents, certainly not a good enough sample to come to any conclusions.
In some institutions, you are encouraged to good, but not *too* good. Some administrators don’t like the accomplishments of their employees to outshine their own. It would be nice (as was suggested earlier) if administrators would take on the attitude that an honor for one reflects well on the whole institution. For those of us who aren’t so lucky, we have to learn to be content with receiving kudos from our friends and taking personal satisfaction in a job well done.