Morale Killer

Last week, we had a couple of nasty ice days, causing the executives at my employer to reiterate their delay/cancelation policy. Basically, the policy states that the workplace is open unless the governor issues a decree ordering businesses/agencies in the State closed. I don’t work for the government and am supportive of company officials to develop their own policy for inclement weather, but to have a policy that translates into “we are never closing” is questionable. What is even more troublesome is when inclement weather strikes, organization executives seem to all declare that they are working from home for the day.

On Christmas Eve last week, the agency’s parking lot was nothing more than a skating rink and a danger to any employee or guest at the location. The organization’s contractor who treats the large hilly parking lot had not arrived by noon, and no members of management were available to provide direction. Since the governor had not issued any type of closing order (I write that followed by a belly laugh), everyone was on their own. As you can guess in situations like this, morale sinks.

On the topic of morale, I wanted to touch on how managers/police supervisors can be a positive influence with employees. First, a supervisor should see himself/herself as a facilitator. The supervisor’s role is to provide the resources and remove obstacles that permit his/her personnel to be successful. People are motivated to work for different reasons, and it is the supervisor’s job to identify and then provide those incentives for each individual.

One important motivational attribute is that the supervisor, within reason, stands by his/her people. Supporting personnel when upper management or the public question their decisions is respectful and strengthens morale.

For example, as a young patrol officer I was initially given a check on the welfare of a person. Before my arrival, the dispatcher received additional information and asked if it was ok if I “take a number” or close out the call with no further action. I did, was immediately given another call, and forgot about the incident. After the exchange, my supervisor called dispatch via phone, got the information, and went to the location with another officer to verify that the subject involved in the welfare check was all right.

Later in the shift, I met with the sergeant to turn-in paperwork and he told me why checking on the subject was necessary. He said that the dispatcher should not have put me on the spot like that to cancel the call, but in future similar instances I should defer a decision like that to the supervisor. He had called in via phone to the dispatcher so not to embarrass me over the police radio. I appreciated his efforts, and was always motivated to do more when working for him.

In contrast, I worked for one supervisor for a year without him realizing that I was permanently assigned to his district. On the last day of the reporting period, he had to type all of my quarterly and final evaluations for signature and submission. He rated me average in most categories, despite having no knowledge of my actual performance. Needless to say, when I had a choice in the future, I did not work for this supervisor again.

The issue of morale in policing is a common topic. In 2002, an officer in the Detroit Police Department wrote an honest anecdotally-based paper on problems with morale in his agency.

In sum, persons with supervisory responsibility (executive management included) have to motivate their folks, and one sure-fire way of killing morale is to announce that you are “working from home” while everyone else is required to toboggan to the office on dangerous snowy/icy day.


Anonymous said...

How about a collective order to "take a number", as in the Ray Gricar case?

Signed -- a Penn's woods, semi-intelligent, civilian free-thinker.

Slamdunk said...

I also have an interest in the Gricar missing persons case, and will work on getting my thoughts in an organized fashion for a post or two in the near future.

Thanks for the questions and comments free-thinker. I am a firm believer in debate as it allows for adjustments to make an informed opinion stronger.