Burnout, Low Pay Threaten to Decimate Museum Worker Ranks

4March 25, 2023

Burnout, Low Pay Threaten …

Two-thirds of US museum workers are considering abandoning their jobs owing to high levels of burnout, low wages, and minimal opportunities for advancement, Julia Halperin reports inThe Art Newspaper. Halperin, a coauthor of theBurns Halperin Report, which tracks Black representation at American museums, pointed to the inaugural report released this month by Museums Moving Forward (MMF), for which the advocacy group surveyed 1,933 employees from more than fifty arts institutions across the country. Millennial museum workers were especially dissatisfied, with 76 percent saying they were ready to leave the industry altogether. Halperin noted that burnout levels were likely high at museums because jobs within their hallowed walls are typically considered prestigious and tend to be competitive and rewarding, with the result that those holding them feel pushed to work longer and harder in order to maintain their positions. Because museum roles are so sought after, movement in the field may be sluggish, resulting in fewer opportunities for advancement. This is widely felt, the MMF report showed, with just 28 percent of museum employees reporting satisfaction with the career opportunities available to them as compared to 48 percent of US workers generally.RelatedHELEN FRANKENTHALER FOUNDATION SUED FOR “DESTROYING” PAINTER’S LEGACYBMA CREATES PAID INTERNSHIPS HONORING VALERIE MAYNARD Christina Maslach, a psychology professor at the University of California, Berkeley, told Halprin that museums could avoid brain drain by focusing on what she cast as the three C’s: collaboration, customization, and commitment.

Mia Locks, an MMF cofounder, suggested that one low-cost way of effectively managing burnout was for institutions to conduct regular 360-degree internal reviews allowing staff to offer feedback regarding their managers. Yayoi Shionoiri, former associate general counsel of New York’s Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum and the current director of the Chris Burden estate and Nancy Rubins’s studio, posited creative solutions to burnout as a way of staving off attrition. “If the budget doesn’t support a pay increase, could you offer more paid days off, or volunteer days?” asked Shionoiri. Maslach advocated for even the most modest alterations to help museums retain staff, noting, “A small positive change helps build the notion that problems are fixable.”.