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The “Solutions! Shared Working Document” located on the Task Saturation Documents page in the Task Saturation Solutions section has recently been updated by adding a small number of new suggestions.  This now 20-page resource also has been edited to update links to external resources and to provide a table of contents with internal links to the relevant sections in order to make this document that also is searchable by keyword easier to navigate.

The new solutions were gleaned from audience members participating in the discussion period after presentations at the Canadian Museums Association conference session “Museum Worker Overload & the Ethics of Exploitation” held in Toronto on 9 April 2014.

One of the most striking realisations for this presenter at the session was the fact that 2 members of the audience stated that they were on their way out of the museum business.  Reasons included the consequences of “major issues with stress” caused by rising expectations, insufficient resources, & lack of work/life balance.  Admittedly, the session subject obviously biased the sample of those in attendance.  However, a First Nations professional active in Aboriginal training programmes also reported experience with a rise in the rate of turnover in the field in contrast to when museum workers used to stay longer in their positions.  In short, “many people are getting out.”  This observation does confirm the findings of the Ontario Nonprofit Network’s (McIsaac 2013) research that finds “Excessive workloads/insufficient staff resources” is reported by 31% [4th highest of 9 answers) of the 1,450 nonprofit organisation respondents as being among the most important reasons for staff retention challenges.

In the short time available, audience participants were able to identify some potential ways of addressing the overwork, stress, & retention problems:

  • Work load has increased dramatically.  However, additional compensation would be OK if the workers have the ability to say No.  [Refer to the previous Blog post on William Ury’s (2007) Best Book for Fully Loaded Camels for practical ways & means of saying No.]
  • The Canadian Museums Association (CMA)  needs to address it at a CMA meeting because this is a “huge issue–a human rights issue.”  We need to make sure this becomes a governance issue for museums.  Personnel matters need to be one of the main issues for CMA.
  • From a small community museum perspective: We do receive valuable funding from the CMA through programmes such as the Young Canada Works.  Such funding needs to be increased so we can pay for job positions [possibly meaning fully-funded positions].  The comment that the CMA needs to continue to advocate on behalf of increased funding was mentioned more than once.  [Note here however that Robert Janes (2009:176) argues in his challenging book Museums in a Troubled World that, unless museums begin to address current world problems, this lobbying for additional resources will be doomed.]
  • Management idea: List all your tasks & drop an existing one in order to make room for a new one.  [See the updated Solutions! document linked above for related solutions.]
  • Need more formal networking group. [e.g. this Solving Task Saturation Blog, Museum Worker Task Saturation Wiki, & Andrea Michelbach’s web site Exploring the Well-Being of Museum Professionals]
  • We need to continue the conversation with local stakeholders.  [One part of such conversations could be to begin attempting to deliberately manage rising–yet unresourced–expectations.]

References Cited:

Janes, Robert R. 2009. Museums in a Troubled World: Renewal, Irrelevance, or Collapse? New York: Routledge.

McIsaac, Elizabeth et al. 2013. Shaping the Future: Leadership in Ontario’s Nonprofit Labour Force. Final Report. ONN Human Capital Renewal Strategy: Phase One. Toronto: Ontario Nonprofit Network & The Mowat Centre.