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The key to it all
By Joe Bouchard
Published: 09/13/2010

Castle Imagine a formidable citadel, completely impervious to invasion. The structure is an utterly unassailable fortress. In other words, no one can get inside without assistance from those within.

Of course, an alternative to banging on the front door is to find the key and enter. Yet, who but the very brave or equally foolish would walk up to the front door, use the key, and enter into the presumably heavily fortified territory of an enemy?

The foregoing is not some sort of allusion to The Lord of the Rings or any other against-all-odds literary journey. This is a parallel to our real life battle against staff division.

The trenches, armaments, and watch towers on the fortress represent our many dividers. Cliques are present. Treachery, jealousy, and over-weaned pride also reside here. In fact, all of the emotions and actions that make colleague perpetrate unprofessional acts on one another are alive and well behind the walls of the fortress of division.

It is easily conceded that every one of us is fallible. And we all have been culpable in some form of staff division, even if tangentially so. However, I believe that most corrections staff treat colleagues with respect and dignity. But, let us dismiss the morality side of all of this. Let’s focus on pure pragmatics of safety.

Staff division is not just a slap to harmony or a mere inconvenience. In a corrections setting, it is a dangerous mindset that fosters vengeance. Division places us in a position to focus on real or imagined injustices and to ignore basic safety. While we busily monitor our staff nemeses, our safety is diminished. We simply get to busy watching each other rather than keeping an eye on prisoner activities.

Also, inter-colleague squabbling leads to vulnerable, disconnected staff. The enterprising handler sees this and starts building mock-rapport with the lost staff person. In the true tradition of any manipulation scheme, staff division is a wonderful opportunity to gain the trust and eventually the deeds of the disenfranchised.

So what is the key to thwarting staff division? The key, quite simply, is the individual. In fact, the only key that we truly have any control over is the key to our individual selves. Of course, knowing that you are the key does not automatically render staff division as vanquished. In fact, entering into this domain, like walking up to a heavily-armed fortress is dangerous.

Still, allowing the pervasive feeling of staff division rule over you increases the peril. Staff need to take objective perspectives when faced with bickering colleagues. If, for example, your friend rages at work, it is a powder keg that you should not ignore or condone.

That is easier said than done. How does one keep above personal ties in order to slow the growth of harmful staff division? Here are some suggestions:
  • Foster security concerns. Focus on tactics that will enhance facility safety.
  • Don’t gossip.
  • Avoid the quagmire of taking sides in a dispute.
  • Lead by example.
  • Adapt the mission statement mentality. Talk of and act upon our imperative – safety for staff, offenders, and the public.
  • Be aware that defeating staff division is not easy. In fact, virtue sometimes attracts negativity.
  • Know that slowing the malignancy of discord is a worthy cause in terms of altruism and safety pragmatism.

Entering the fortress of staff division is not for the weak-minded or timid. And your only armors are integrity, self confidence, and perspective. But the workplace that you help to build is also yours. In many cases you are part of the solution. You are the key.

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