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Lurking beneath the surface II: The cures
By Joe Bouchard
Published: 08/31/2009

Shark In part I of lurking beneath the surface we asked the question “Are things always as they seem?” The appearance of superficial surprises can mask horrifying dangers. There often is something lurking beneath the surface. Some of these unobtrusive menaces are our own mistakes, outside changes, contraband, staff division, and prisoner uprisings. The perfect cup of coffee is perfect only as long as one does not find a dead insect floating on the surface.

What we do to cope with these things? How can we combat the danger of the shark that surfaces on hitherto placid water?

Change and grow – Corrections staff need to see that signs of change as they come. This can be done by speaking with proactive staff, seeking the input of a variety of colleagues, and by delving into professional literature. Talk to others about that which is beneath the surface.

Look beyond your zone of comfort – Nothing is in a vacuum. If corrections seems sealed off from the outside world, it is only a physical perception. News, trends, opinions, and ideas transcend the walls. It is up to all of us to ponder how political and societal changes on the outside can impact the events of the inside.

Search for flaws – Effortless operations are not perpetual. Facilities and agencies experience peaks and valleys as a natural course. Troubleshooting is never a futile exercise.

Think in hypothetical terms - Pose these questions to yourself: What if all hell breaks loose? How could events in the Capitol modify my work day? What could division do to diminish safety for all? How are newly committed offenders different from those who entered the system ten years ago?

Accept surprise – No one can predict everything. If an unpleasant surprise comes to your attention, accept it and deal with it. There is no shame in being caught unawares. The dishonor lies in failure to digest and react to the change.

Think of the caveats of over analysis – Moderation is key. When looking beneath the surface, it is crucial to stave off paranoia. That is the element on the other side of the continuum from complacency. That could lead to a mis-focus, leaving you blind to all but the one area that you view under a microscope. Over analysis is easily detected by those who watch staff. This could cause undue tension in the facility.

Your workplace can be thought of as the perfect cup of coffee. But is it as it seems? This is not an invitation to tear down genuinely good operations in search of a tiny flaw. However, searching just beneath the surface can reveal a problem that can be fixed when it is still small.

Visit the Joe Bouchard page


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