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Home > Self Scrutiny, Staff relations, Uncategorized > How to be a ridiculous figure part I: Recognition

How to be a ridiculous figure part I: Recognition

September 16th, 2009


The confident professional who stumbles clumsily up the stairs…

The narcissist with the smug smile, oblivious to the spinach in his teeth…

Leaving a rest room with a foot long flag of toilet paper on our shoe or at our beltline…

Let’s face it, we are only human.  And when we are trying to operate smoothly, or even normally, we wear egg on our faces from time to time. These are unintentional incidents that may be forgotten after a while.  But, there are many more things that we do to ourselves that seem to be remembered in perpetuity. 

In fact, we may not realize just how ridiculous we can appear to other people. But the problem is not solely about embarrassment.  That is a lesser concern when we consider the haunting specter of self imposed security breaches. 

Corrections is very serious business.  And it does not matter from which segment you serve, custody, programs, administration or support services.  We cannot afford to be ridiculous.

That is, when we engage in monumentally ignorant or wantonly negligent behavior, we put ourselves, other staff, prisoners and the public at risk. Through a chain of events tied to strange or distasteful behavior, it is possible to upset the balance. Ultimately, there are lives at stake. 

The obnoxious, clueless, cruel, and vulnerable open the doors to peril. This is done through one or more faux pas committed by oblivious or unconcerned staff.  The reaction by other staff is often a distancing.  This can leave some personnel isolated and possibly vulnerable to manipulations.  And when this happens, security is compromised through a mis-focus or a washing of the hands of certain colleagues.  

Let us not categorize ridiculous occurrences as mere blunders.  No, this is not a bad transmission over the radio.  Nor is this a rare foot-in-mouth moment.  Some behaviors are not just chalked up to someone having a bad day.  These are more serious errors that seem be long-term part of an individual’s make up. 

One example is when staff lose their cool.  It is one thing to show an occasional crack under stress. But, we become absurd when we rant and complain when confronted.  That is a very convenient handle, usable by the manipulative.

Also in the realm of ridiculous are those who argue with an offender.  This demonstrates a lack of control to all. It serves as an indication of hot buttons or manners in which staff can be knocked off their squares.

 There is nothing wrong with speaking with well-rounded, well-traveled staff.  However, there are limits to aspiring fonts of knowledge. For example, the know-it-all is a source of embarrassment to colleagues. Name a topic, and they are the expert.  A related behavior is the done-it-all.  That is the person who will one up another who tells a story – if you have done it, they have done it better. 

Related to this is personnel who loudly opinionate.  Certainly, everyone is entitled to their own views. However, training and experience tell us that this is not only annoying, it is also dangerous.  

A more direct foolish move is the staff that will badmouth other staff in front of offenders.  That tells prisoners that there is a lack of unity, a chink in the vocational armor. 

Showing over-sensitivity in a corrections setting is a behavior that leads to an unpaved, uphill career path.  This is not to be confused with reporting of abusive behavior by others.  There are legitimate means to deal with those instances.  But when staff are not equipped to roll with a little innocuous ribbing, they demonstrate their vulnerabilities.

On the other end of the spectrum are those who abuse others.  Bullies of all varieties – physical, intellectual, clique-driven, and obnoxious – fly high on the radar of would-be manipulators.  Their psychological needs of the bully (and ways to capitalize on them) is very apparent.

An unobtrusive yet debilitating behavior is the self-abuser.  Those on the road to self-destruction certainly place themselves in danger.  But staff sometimes got caught in the crossfire of those with a problem.  Self-abuse becomes everyone’s issue when performance suffers.

The preceding is a depressing list of the bad parts of human nature in the workplace.  In part II of “How to be a ridiculous figure”, we will examine ways to mitigate the peril that can come from these behaviors.

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joebouchard Self Scrutiny, Staff relations, Uncategorized

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