Social Connections in the Workplace: Why They Matter

Today’s Occasional Read:
Julianne Holt-Lunstad
Fostering Social Connection in the Workplace
American Journal of Health Promotion, v. 35, 2018
https://doi.org/10.1177/0890117118776735a

Every once in a while it’s nice to keep things relatively simple. I have read and written about some very complicated articles since I started this blog. Today, I decided to take a look at a short article about why we need social connections in the workplace.

This topic is timely, of course, as so many people (including nearly all my colleagues in the library) are working from home right now because of the coronavirus. This topic is also timely because I am serving on a committee at my library that is examining workplace culture and establishing a set of cultural norms for our organization. Since I volunteered for this committee, I have been asking myself a lot why workplace cultural norms are so important. This article was a good reminder of some of the answers to that question.

The science around social connections and relationships is pretty clear about their benefits. Social isolation and loneliness, each on their own, have been found to lead to physical and mental health problems, premature cognitive decline, and other things that make life unpleasant for people. However, it is those two factors working in tandem, meaning that a person is both socially isolated (lacks a social support structure) AND lonely (lacks sufficiently meaningful social connections), that really do some serious damage, especially if the person is experiencing this at work and it impacts the time and energy they can spend developing social connections outside of the office.

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I’m Back; Organizational Justice and Cynicism

Catherine T. Kwantes & Michael H. Bond, Organizational justice and autonomy as moderators of the relationship between social and organizational cynicism, Personality and Individual Differences, v. 151, Dec. 2019, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.paid.2019.04.046.

Well, it has been more than two months since I blogged about an article. During that absence from the blog, classes started here at the law school. Between individual research consults, library research classes, and lecturing in legal research and writing, I have been so busy with teaching and getting to know our students that there hasn’t been time for much else.

Yes, this is the life of a reference librarian during the late summer and early fall in an academic law library.

The important thing, of course, is getting back on the horse after you fall off. It is also important to internalize lessons learned through lived experience. I wanted to read and blog daily, but that is just not possible.

So the name of this blog has been changed to “Jennifer’s Occasional Read.” The word “occasional” will mean different things depending on the time of year. Today, it means I have an empty calendar for the first time in a long time, and an article I really want to dig into. So blogging starts again today. Will I blog again tomorrow? Who knows? Today is what matters.

Today’s article discusses social cynicism and organizational justice in the workplace and how they contribute to employees’ organizational cynicism and the health of the organization in general.

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Blogging as an Exercise in Control; Ethnography in Libraries

Citation:
Donna Lanclos and Andrew D. Asher, “Ethnographish”: The State of Ethnography in Libraries, Weave: Journal of Library User Experience, Volume 1, Issue 5, 2016, DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.3998/weave.12535642.0001.503

So I think I am already getting the hang of how blogging will ebb and flow, in terms of the quantity of blog posts that I can reasonably manage at various times of the year. Late July and early August are, obviously, prime for daily reading of articles and blogging about them — it is right after the AALL annual meeting, and I am pumped about new ideas and scholarship. However, as mid-August approaches, we start preparing for the beginning of the academic year, and I have to cut back, which is OK.

I expect I will be back to daily blogging sometime in November, but even then it is too far in the future to worry about today. At least I am managing to do something today, which is good.

What did worry me today is that I noticed that a number of my previous blog posts had had their text replaced with an hyperlinked advertisement. WHAT?!?!?!?! I pay money for this blog and was very unhappy that this could happen. The poor person on the WordPress end of a support chat this morning got an earful from me. (An eyeful?) But they took it like a true pro, and showed me how to revert to previously-saved versions of posts, which I did. They also suggested I change to a stronger password, and I did that as well.

So three cheers for WordPress User Support. I am often on their end of our library’s chat reference, and I hope I handle difficult people as nicely as they handled me.

(Also, maybe I could have been a little less difficult, although I thought that HOURS of work had been deleted forever and I was not happy about it, so I am going to cut myself a little slack.)

Anyway, today’s article continues on the theme from last week: ethnography. I found an article written by two ethnographers who work full-time in academic libraries, and found that they had some very interesting things to say on this topic.

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Librarians: Is Your Community of Practice (CoP) Doing More Harm Than Good?

Citation:
Sarah Vela, Knowledge Management, Diversity, and Professional Hierarchies in Libraries, Journal of Library Administration, v. 58, no. 8, 2018, https://doi.org/10.1080/01930826.2018.1516950.

I had originally scheduled an article about legal translation today. However, after yesterday’s article about identities in the workplace, I decided this was a topic I wanted to spend more time with. Various searches led me to this article from 2018.

The author is a PhD student, and her research on knowledge management (KM) and organizational and cultural management models is quite extensive. With this article, the author is attempting to fill what she views as a gap in the literature: how KM and its influence on organizational behavior manifests itself in libraries.

It took her a while (perhaps a bit too long) to get to the libraries part. She began with a historical explanation of the concept of KM, and how it is based on the idea that there are two levels of knowledge: explicit (“comprehension associated with education and intellect”) and tacit (something that is “learned by doing”).

She also described how, in the literature, a “continuum of the degree of tacitness” of knowledge has been developed, and that the nature of knowledge can change based on where it is located on this continuum.

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Life; Workplace Identity

Citation:
Theresa M. Welbourne and Ted A. Paterson, Advancing a Richer View of Identity at Work: The Role-Based Identity Scale, Personnel Psychology, 2017, 20, 315-356.

So I have not blogged for a few days. I will avoid getting overly personal except to say that our cat died last Friday. He had been a member of our family for 16 years. He stayed up every night with me while I was studying in law school and library school, and was one of the best friends I have ever had. Anyway, sometimes life gets in the way of blogging.

In addition, sometimes technology also gets in the way of blogging. I started taking notes for today’s article, and then my computer crashed and I lost them. But I think this topic is important, so I pressed ahead.

This article presents research on people’s identities at work, and presents a framework of five identity types:

  • Organization-Based Identity (how someone sees him or herself in relation to “central, distinctive, and enduring characteristics of an organization”)
  • Occupational Identity (how people view themselves from a professional/career standpoint, beyond their current job at their current workplace)
  • Innovator Identity (determined by how people’s sense of innovation and creativity is “incentiviz(ed), manag(ed), and utiliz(ed)” in the workplace)
  • Team Identity (“refers to the degree to which an individual view of self is impacted by membership in a work team.”)
  • Job Identity (how the specific jobs people hold influence their work identities)
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