A couple chiefs ago, I sent an email to ask the chief: “What is the chief going to do to improve morale?” The response I got was, “nothing.” He explained it was the employee’s responsibility to improve their attitude, which would improve morale. I respectfully disagreed and saw it differently. Sure, our attitudes could influence our job, but you can only keep a smile on your face for so long when you’re constantly under attack.
Is it even possible for an employer to improve morale in the workplace? Of course, it is! A simple Google search yields a plethora of ideas, examples and successful case studies. Sabbaticals, temporary reassignments, salary, work environment, praise and recognition are just a few. What is the easiest and biggest morale booster that any employer can do, especially a police department? Support! There is also trust, recognition, communication, fairness and leading by example. How about standing with officers and not protesters or even giving the benefit of the doubt to the officer when they are being scrutinized. Support doesn’t just come from a sergeant, lieutenant, commander or assistant chief. Support also needs to come from City leaders. Imagine if our recruiting posters were just like other local cities in the valley. “Come work where you are supported!” “We will not defund our police!” If Phoenix recruiting posters said come work for a city where you are supported from the top down, what effect would that have on morale?
What is the easiest and biggest morale booster that any employer can do, especially a police department? Support!
What do we do as officers when our employer believes improving the work environment is our sole responsibility? Our attitudes and mindset do play a big role in our mental well-being. First, you have to disconnect. Don’t live this life 24/7. Be mindful of the number of days you put the uniform on, picking up that extra shift or off-duty job beyond your normal work schedule. Having good friends outside of the workplace who aren’t police-related is also important. If you surround yourself with other officers off duty, your conversations always lead back to work. Find that healing time to disconnect from the job. Is it a hobby, the gym or spirituality? Find the thing that makes you happy. You have varied types of leave available. Do not be afraid to use these benefits. Whatever it is that clears your head, make time to do it and always put your family first. To the spouse who is reading this, make them make time.
We are not seeing any attempts at morale improvement by the Department, so it will come down to you. I used to tell the OITs that I could have them hating this job in just a few minutes based off my experiences that were negative during my career. The fact is I can keep complaining all I want and point out the obvious nonsense, but it’s not going to change. I would tell them the only way to survive this career is through your attitude and your health, mental and physical. Never lose your passion and sense of care for the job but understand the City determines what we do while on the clock. If the City wants us to deal with an incorrigible 7-year-old instead of responding to priority emergency calls, then so be it. If they want us to write a report when there’s no crime just because someone wants one, OK. These things are out of our control. Don’t let poor leadership decisions bring you down. Find the things in the job that bring you joy and focus on them.
PLEA is doing what we can to boost morale and camaraderie among members. Just a few of the fun things we are offering to the membership are a family day, the Fallen Officer Memorial Golf Classic, the Police Officers’ Ball, membership appreciation barbecues and family movie day.
Stay safe and wait for your backup!