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Home > Self Scrutiny, Staff relations, Training > Climbing the wall that divides staff: W.I.T.H. - U.

Climbing the wall that divides staff: W.I.T.H. - U.

October 12th, 2010

The following is an excerpt from Joe Bouchard’s keynote speech to the Wisconsin Correctional Association in September. Thanks to the wonderful corrections professionals that make up this association.  


Staff division is like an immense wall barring access to the ideal of safety.  The existence of division makes possible lapsed vigilance, vengeance, sabotage, and even violence.  Sadly, this is one of corrections’ stressors over which we have a degree of command – but never seem to control. 




Identifying that which divides us is very simple.  It is difficult, however, to reverse inter-staff animosity and derision once it starts.  Training in interpersonal communications is one way to raise awareness of the depth and consequences of the problem.  Also, a fair and well-advertised discriminatory harassment prevention program is a way to chip away at the wall of division.


Another part of the solution can be found in a mindset that begs us to consider the problem outside of our comfort zones.  The five principles that build and maintain staff unity are spelled out W.I.T.H. - U.


Win –


The old saying “you can’t win them all” is apt here.  All of us have experienced a setback in life and at work. Sometimes life does not seem fair. Yet, nothing is perpetually optimal.  Quite simply, the universe will not bend to personal inclinations and preferences of the wisher.  With that notion digested, it is easier to accept events rather than to perceive them as a series of defeats.   This realization will aid in tearing down the wall of staff division in that vengeance will be diminished.  Patient realism is the key to this mindset.


Individual –  


It takes all kinds.  In the work world, we encounter so many different sorts of people.  It is a mosaic of motivations, personalities, and experiences. Often, when we try to understand these personalities, motivations, and experiences, we gain insight into the actions of others.  It also tells us a bit about each of our capacity for patience. While this alone does not guarantee that the walls of division will crumble on command, it chips away at the foundation of disunity.


Talent –


When we discount a resource because of unrelated personal prejudices, we do ourselves and our agency’s goal a disservice.  In other words, we often overlook talent in people because we do not like them.  Tapping into various talent banks is necessary for the success of the mission.  This is true even if the person in question is not one of the “beautiful people” or “chosen ones”.


Hidden –


Do not fall into the warm, loving arms of complacency just because all seems calm.  Usually there is animosity beneath the surface.  This is not a call for despair or pessimism or paranoia.  Rather, this prepares us to address divisive events with very little shock.  As experience in our vocation teaches us, we should always consider possibilities, even if they do not seem likely.


Unity statement –


Consider this statement:   We don’t have to like each other. We just have to work together.  This statement, on the face of it, seems to throw sand in the eyes of staff relations.  Upon closer examination, this really is a clear, realistic vision.  The emphasis is on working together to achieve the goal of safety for offenders, the public, and staff.  Friendship is another matter.  It is helpful in achieving the goal.  But, if it is not present, the professionalism to work together is all that is really necessary for success.


The wall of division is not impassible or permanent.  There are ways over, under, around or through this seemingly colossal impediment.  And with coordinated efforts, we can all dismantle the wall. The concepts of  W.I.T.H. - U.   are some of the ways that we can do this.

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joebouchard Self Scrutiny, Staff relations, Training

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