“High school kids at In-N-Out Burger and Chick-fil-A are doing largely the same job that kids at any other fast-food restaurant are doing, and yet there are a lot fewer miserable jobs at In-N-Out and Chick-fil-A. The difference is not the job itself. It is the management. And one of the most important things that managers must do is help employees see why their work matters to someone. Even if this sounds touchy-feely to some, it is a fundamental part of human nature.” – Patrick Lencioni
The premise of the book “3 Signs of a Miserable Job” by Patrick Lencioni is simply this – staying in a miserable job can have severely negative consequences on a person mentally, physically, and emotionally. These consequences can affect a person’s life both personally and professionally and it does not have to be that way. The good news is that, as supervisors, we have the ability to combat the 3 signs of a miserable job and it really is not that complicated.
Here are the 3 signs of a miserable job . . .
“People cannot be fulfilled in their work if they are not known. All human beings need to be understood and appreciated for their unique qualities by someone in a position of authority. . . . People who see themselves as invisible, generic, or anonymous cannot love their jobs, no matter what they are doing.”
“Everyone needs to know that their job matters, to someone. Anyone. Without seeing a connection between the work and the satisfaction of another person or group of people, an employee simply will not find lasting fulfillment. Even the most cynical employees need to know that their work matters to someone, even if it’s just the boss.”
“Employees need to be able to gauge their progress and level of contribution for themselves. They cannot be fulfilled in their work if their success depends on the opinions or whims of another person, no matter how benevolent that person may be. Without a tangible means for assessing success or failure, motivation eventually deteriorates as people see themselves as unable to control their own fate.”
In relation to law enforcement, if an officer is miserable in their job due to the factors of anonymity, irrelevance, and immeasurability, then what is the cost to them personally, their squad, their department, and the community they are supposed to be serving? Personally, they carry their misery home which adversely affects their family life. They become the salty grump in the back of the briefing room that complains about everything and sucks the energy out of all around them. To the department they are a liability because of the negative impact on the culture and the unpredictability of their actions on the road. The community suffers because the miserable officer represents the worst of the police department which erodes public trust and makes the job that much more difficult for the officers that are not miserable. How many officers are you picturing in your head right now that match this description of a miserable officer?
Here are 25 ways law enforcement supervisors can combat anonymity, irrelevance, and immeasurability . . .
- Create a team atmosphere within the squad where it is believed that we is greater than I.
- When you get a new officer, meet with them individually and get them on board with the squad culture from day one.
- Recognize good police work in briefing. What you reward will be repeated.
- Have officers debrief good calls for service and share their expertise and successes with others.
- Get out of the office and on the road with your officers. Try to get on a call for service or backup each of your officers during each shift, if time allows.
- Rotating having officers conduct briefing training based upon their policing strengths and interests.
- Meet with officers regularly to discuss their career goals and seek out opportunities to help them fulfill those goals.
- Get to know your officers’ families. Create opportunities for them to all get together with the other families of the squad.
- Send handwritten thank you notes to your officers’ spouses or significant others to let them know that you appreciate the commitment that the families make to law enforcement, too.
- Making policing relevant is about getting back to the “why.” Know why you chose to become a police officer. Know why you chose to be a supervisor. Share your why with your officers. Get to know their why, find opportunities to relate their why to calls for service, and discuss the relationship in briefing.
- As a supervisor, you set the tone and create value in community service. If it is important to you, it will be important to them.
- Promote public commendations in briefing by reading them aloud for all your officers to hear.
- Teach your officers to be good beat cops and take pride in their assigned part of the city.
- Get away from the term customer service and focus on community service. The term customer service cheapen what we do as police officers and builds irrelevance.
- Have discussions in briefing regarding who your officers serve. Point out that they serve not only the community, but they also serve each other. Discuss that you, the supervisor, are there to serve them.
- Teach your squad to have a focus on finding solutions while on calls for serve; not on producing statistics, being a band aid, or handling them as quickly as possible.
- Exemplify and promote a culture of positivity on your squad through your actions, attitude, and effort.
- Provide good feedback and evaluations to your officers. In return, ask for them to do the same for you.
Of the 3 signs of a miserable job, immeasureability is the most difficult for law enforcement supervisors to deal with directly. There is no limit to the number of statistics that can be measured for each officer: calls for service responded to, self-initiated activities, arrests made, tickets written, response times, amount of time spent on each call, number of community policing activities, etc. The question becomes, are we measuring the right things?
- Clearly define what the “rock star” police officer would do on a “perfect” shift based upon the mission, vision, and operational goals of the department.
- Determine what statistics officers and/or the department have the ability to capture that correspond to the “perfect” shift. If part of the “perfect” shift includes community policing and/or positive interactions with the community, then a way to count those interactions must be determined, as well.
- Set specific goals based upon what the “perfect” shift would look like that clearly define what success looks like for officers and provide them with a way to track those numbers.
- Ultimately, whatever is chosen to be measured must be supported by the officers’ direct supervisors because the direct supervisors will give the statistics being measure their value.
- Supervisors must assist officers in seeing the positive perspective to their seemingly negative activities like making arrests or writing tickets.
- The question to be answered is how do you measure community policing activity effectiveness? Do you count the number of positive citizen commendations, the number of people that say “thank you” after being arrested/written a ticket, or the amount of time dedicated to solving beat problems? This is where the difficulty in the measurability of policing comes into play and must be answered by departments everywhere.
There are many more ways to combat anonymity, irrelevance, and immeasurability in policing. If these 3 signs of a miserable job are not addressed by law enforcement supervisors, then they will have to deal with the miserable officers they are allowing to be created.
“If you’re still not convinced that this makes sense or that it applied to you, this would be a good time to consider resigning your position as a manager and finding a role as an individual contributor.” – Patrick Lencioni
The mission at Thin Blue Line of Leadership is to inspire law enforcement supervisors to be the best leaders they can be by providing positive leadership tactics and ideas. Positive leadership and creating a positive squad culture are on-going commitments that must be nurtured and developed over time. Thin Blue Line of Leadership is here to help. You can also follow us on Twitter at @tbl_leadership.