7 ways to improve correctional officer camaraderie
By building better relationships with our coworkers, we can empower each other to run smoother, safer shifts and all go home in one piece
There is probably no job, other than the military and firemen, who share a camaraderie and brotherhood as we do in the law enforcement field. Unfortunately, there are many things that can divide a team.
Working long hours and dealing with stress does not help. Many assignments are compartmentalized within a jail or prison and there may be little to no interaction with coworkers for the entire shift. Some positions are entirely forgotten about.
The relationships we have with each other tell a huge part of what level of success we can encounter on a daily basis. With that, here are seven ways to build better relationships between officers:
Share information and communicate with fellow coworkers. Many times we do not communicate little bits of information about minor incidents with inmates throughout our shift in our briefings to the subsequent shift. Things that may not seem important can be if it means the knowledge can halt staff manipulation (“deputy shopping” as we call it) or the passing along of information may help them during their shift.
By communicating, you are also sending a message to the inmates that you not only communicate with your partner, but with the other teams assigned to the unit. When I have information that seems important, but it does not constitute the writing of a report, I email my coworkers on the other teams to advise them of incidents worthy for them to know. In some instances, I know this reduces their workload by not having to look into something twice.
2. Don’t let your ego get the best of you
Don’t take things personally when dealing with inmates. Don’t risk the safety of others because you want to save the day or handle possible volatile situations on your own. Be smart when dealing with emergency or hostile situations and think like a team player. It should not be a “him versus him” mentality.
3. Be a team player
Teamwork is the key to true success. Do not cut corners. Teamwork promotes a safer work environment and allows camaraderie. Go the extra mile to help a coworker.
Taking five, ten or twenty minutes (when you have downtime) to help a coworker with an investigation or assisting them with a detail or a report can help someone immensely, especially during a busy shift.
4. Be open-minded and flexible with other personalities and work styles
I am guilty of this at times. I tend to associate with my inner circle of coworkers who have similar personality traits, work styles and the same work ethic as me. I sometimes have been quick to judge others if they do not work fast enough for my standards or if they complete tasks in a different way. I have learned that because someone works differently or at a slower pace, this does not mean their way is wrong.
I’ve learned many things from coworkers whose work styles and personalities differ from mine. For example, I recently learned new gang tactics from a brand new rookie fresh out of the academy. These tactics were something I had never heard of before. It made me realize we all can learn from each other in many ways, no matter how new or how seasoned someone is.
5. Participate in morale boosting events
It’s important to have a positive work environment and to participate in some camaraderie-based events at work or outside of the workplace. Some of us are able to plan a potluck or catered event while working a holiday or celebrating a coworker’s retirement on their last day. Over the years, my team has held many off duty get-togethers, including dinners and comedy nights, camping trips, baseball tailgate and games, and Las Vegas and Spring Training trips. But recently, we discovered our greatest coming together thus far.
My team (of about 30) and I recently came together and raised $1388.00 in under 24 hours for charity. The funds went to a veteran owned coffee company who sends coffee to the forward deployed units. I offered my partner’s mustache to be shaved which upped the ante. Our goal was $750.00 and we exceeded this by hundreds. One of our sergeants also joined in, shaving his mustache of twenty years.
Do it now: Select a military or law enforcement related charity and I challenge your team or agency to pay it forward. This has started a new team tradition where every six months we will collect money for a different charity.
6. Share education
Many agencies do not have the budget to send everyone or even the majority of their staff to training classes. If you attend a class, share the knowledge you learned via an email or PowerPoint. It is conducive to share with new trainees as well as coworkers no matter how long they have been employed. Updates and additional training can boost morale and decrease job burnout.
7. Be active in sharing ideas and encourage collaboration
Discuss emergency situations with your partner that could occur and how you would handle them. Discuss with supervisors or the administration about things that can benefit your organization to be more successful or more efficient.
We may not always be the best at working together especially in a job where we may be called upon to work solo or in a divided environment. We do what we can with what we have. If we build good relationships and work together, we can become the best correctional officers we can be.
If we work in this mindset, we are standing stronger, taller, and leading smarter, against the evil on the other side of the cell door.