|Like rats at a buffet: Coping with aspirations and competition|
|By Joe Bouchard|
Author’s note: The term “rat” has connotations of snitching and telling on others. For the purposes of this essay, rat is not used in that particular sense.
What a mess! They scrambled, jockeyed, and positioned themselves for the best pickings. It was a veritable grab for the best positions. Cynically speaking, ambition sometimes leaves us looking like starving rats at a buffet – driven by maddening avarice and hunger.
Imagine that the buffet is a metaphor for resources. It could be equipment, a new job position, or the right for your area to perform a certain function. As with any resource, it must be acknowledged that the buffet will not always be the same. In fact, there is often an uneven vacillation between bounty and scarcity.
Because of this, our wishes (or, if you wish, our hunger) must tailor itself to that which is available. In other words, ambition must be realistic. If certain elements are not available, it is a wasted effort to pine for them. Otherwise, staff become dissatisfied and bitter.
None of this is to imply that ambition is a bad thing for corrections. Competition pushes people to excel. Quality often comes from these contests. Those who aspire can find professional strength from within. Foraging at the buffet forces the best out of candidates.
Of course, feeding at the buffet can bring out the worst in us. Issues such as sabotage come to mind. Rumors and back stabbing manifest when positions and resources are up for grab.
And corrections staff are always in the eyes of offenders. Of course, not all offenders will endeavor to gain advantage from division in the ranks. But it just takes one example of mutual animosity and an enterprising inmate to orchestrate a set up.
Are there ways to mitigate this? As with all questions of human nature, we must acknowledge that we cannot control what others will say or do. We are responsible for our own actions and must live with this. We must also keep in mind that not everyone will play fair. Colleague or not, some will remove the gloves when a squabble for resources fight is brewing.
Regarding an overt display of animosity at the buffet, we should always look at the agency mission. Local decisions may not always be compatible with the goals of the larger department. Perspective of larger goals is always important to keep in mind.
Corrections is stressful enough without introducing unnecessary disputes over resources. And it is sometimes difficult to look beyond your own facility. However, in harsh economic times, we must look harder and understand the complexity of it all, no matter how unpleasant the decisions of distribution.
So as the metaphorical rats consume what they can on the buffet, we must remember that there will always be that hunger. It behooves us to understand the many nuances of this phenomenon. It is simply a matter of assessing the patterns in a detached, professional way.
Visit the Joe Bouchard page