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Ten Dividers in Corrections
By Joe Bouchard
Published: 01/17/2011

Splittingwood Most anyone acknowledges the sense in the statement, “We need to get along.” Yet, that simple ideal is elusive. Perhaps it is a matter of definition. Are we all on the same page when we consider what division is?

For example, everyone can claim that they know the world’s most outrageous liar. Often, this individual is a colleague who makes the work world a veritable hell. But, is your divisive monster the same as everyone else’s? Can you compile a list of destructive personalities that would mirror everyone’s sentiments?

Lists are also important to us. We seem to have a need to rank items by importance. Not everyone will agree on general lists, but they are a comfortable way to assess a group of items. For example, we will not all concur on the best presidents in history or the best cars ever built. The best foods or vacation destinations are never unanimous lists. It is all very subjective.

Identifying the major dividers is the first step in securing our interpersonal boarders in the war against manipulation and all of its nefarious allies. I am offering a list of the top ten most divisive personality types in corrections. Granted, this list may not match everyone’s conceptions of what the top ten should look like. It is offered as food for thought and in the spirit of recognizing and repairing staff division in corrections.
  1. Bully – This is the person who uses size, posture strength or position to coerce others into doing their will. Bullies may also use humiliation, cliques, or gender to manipulate others.
  2. Condescender – Intellectual bully is the best way to describe this variety of divider. The condescender specializes in talking down to colleagues in order to get the upper hand. Sarcasm and large words are foundations of the strategy of the intellectual bully.
  3. Lazy – Everyone has different levels of productivity. There are some who fall well below the general expectation of what is a fair effort. Work not done by our less than ambitious colleagues spills over into the area of others.
  4. Martyr – This can be an over achiever who is high producing However, they gain notoriety by proclaiming themselves the beast of burden of the agency. They are on the other side of the coin of the lazy staff person. Their sincerity and motives are in question, despite a good record of production.
  5. Micromanager – Not to be mistaken for a thorough person, the micromanager excels in an obsession with the minutiae and a de-emphasis on the larger picture.
  6. Officious – Although we operate in a paramilitary paradigm, direction is not the same thing as bossiness. And officiousness is not confined to high positions. Some of the most demanding colleagues do not necessarily have positional power.
  7. Obsequious – Some colleagues will fawn in order to gain the confidence and favor of others.
  8. Glory grabber – Someone who is more concerned about how much credit is received over the end product of a project is a glory grabber.
  9. Liar – Trust is the oil in corrections motor. Ours is a necessarily suspicious job. Liars spread suspicion while they devour trust.
  10. Gossip – The bored and insecure will tell stories. Rumors have a way of morphing into wild tales. These are hurtful in the long run, as they breed resentment and distrust.

The above list is not an exercise in complaining. Rather, it is a device that we can use to check our understanding of ourselves and of a pervasive problem in our field. As I look at this list, I also employ some self scrutiny. This is an opportunity for concerned parties to gauge their commitment to solving an ever-present test of our professionalism.

There are many other problems that we have very little control over such as budget, public opinion, and cycles of crime. Of all of the challenges that face our vocation, how we treat each other is largely in our hands.

Division is dangerous. When we tolerate and foster animosity, the gates are open for harassment suits, introduction of contraband, and other dangers. Harmony between corrections colleagues is vocational armor against manipulation by enterprising prisoners and rouge staff members. Staff unity is not always easy to cultivate. But that we have some control over staff unity is comforting

The following is in response to a reader's comment - A Solution to Staff Division: The Rock of Integrity

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Comments:

  1. joebouchard on 01/27/2011:

    That's a very good question, Centurion. And thanks for asking. It deservs elaboration. A kernal of the answer lies in the second to last paragraph: "There are many other problems that we have very little control over such as budget, public opinion, and cycles of crime. Of all of the challenges that face our vocation, how we treat each other is largely in our hands." I mean by that, each of as as individuals control how we act and react. Of course, we cannot directly control others. But, if any of the dividers find in their path a large rock of integrity (figuratively speaking), they either have to climb it, go around it, try to move it, or turn around and walk away. It is not always pretty, of course. I admit that it is a small consolation. But, it is something. We control our own person. And when it works, it is priceless. And in some cases, it could have a ripple effect for other good things. Naturally, I know that this is hard. It is almost like contraband control - no matter how diligent we may be, our efforts will likely produce few positive results. The task is just too large to completely control. But, as a positive-realist, I say that every little bit helps.

  2. Centurion on 01/23/2011:

    So...Joe. You have identified many personality types that cause division and make it difficult to form a cohesive work unit. You've identified some problems, then stated that we have some control over staff unity. Just what might that be? It's missing form the article bro...


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