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A Solution to Staff Division: The Rock of Integrity
By Joe Bouchard
Published: 01/31/2011

Rocks Recognizing staff division is easy. Repairing it is difficult, tedious and typically takes more than just one encounter. But the answer to many of our interpersonal woes lies in the strength of the individual.

When we ponder the impact of the individual, we should look not only to the negative, but also in the positive direction. Certainly, we notice individuals who engage in staff division quite easily, we must never forget those who face division in a steady, un-intimidated manner. These individuals are like rocks of integrity.

In a recent article for www.corrections.com, I outlined various staff dividers in corrections. (See “Ten Dividers in Corrections” published on January 17, 2011) one of our colleagues later commented about the lack of solutions in the piece. In essence, I outlined many dividers, but offered just a few words about how the key to solving staff division is in our hands.

A kernel of the answer lies in the second to last paragraph of the Dividers article: "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 us as individuals control how we act and react. Of course, we cannot directly control others. But we can take steps to limit the control others have over us.

Let’s take a run of the mill divider like the obnoxious bully. This type, of course, uses sarcasm, belittlement and out and out rudeness to control others (and to fulfill whatever emptiness that nags at their inner self.)

The obnoxious bully runs into a colleague who is a rock of integrity. The rock is not scared of the ramblings, does not yield, and is steadfast in professionalism. The rock engages the bully in an assertive (not aggressive) manner. The obnoxious bully, used to no opposition, is frustrated and has to make a decision before losing face. How do bullies deal with a rock? They either have to climb it, go around it, try to move it, or turn around and walk away.

Climb the rock - Dividers will use tactics that are direct hits to the solid, immovable rock. These can include ridicule, loud demonstrations, or lies. In this option, it is a drive up the middle.

Go around rock- Cutting the losses and after assessing the resolve of integrity, the divider simply disengages and circumvents the rough spot. Once clear, the divider resumes the reign of workplace terror.

Try to move the rock – This can be done directly with forward tactics as outlined in “climb the rock”. Or, more subtle ways can be used. Through influence or behind the scenes coercion, the divider can have the rock of integrity exiled from their normal areas of influence. Of course, all of this depends on the abilities and connections of the divider.

Walk away from the rock- In the best case scenarios, the divider gets bruised on the hard rock and turns from the path. If the bully is a realist and recognizes the resolve of the rock, a guarded retreat is possible. This may result in some introspection. It does not happen often. But an example of firm integrity can sometimes change the actions of others. And the example that it serves for victims of division is heartening.

It is not always pretty, of course. But it is always interesting to see the resolve of both parties. Progress may not be notable, but it can be slow and steady. And it may even be in the form of a slowing of a divisive individual. That is the specialty of the rock of integrity.

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.

Mountains are thrown up in slow and steady movements over time. Change does not have to be dramatic to happen. In fact, it may even be imperceptible. And the same may be true of repairing staff division in correction. A simple rock of integrity may force change upon the thinking of a would-be divider.

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