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Model Citizen: Climbers and Professionals
By Joe Bouchard
Published: 12/19/2011

Professionalwomen There are so many challenges for anyone employed as a corrections professional. But staff division is a very interesting issue in corrections. This is because of the impact of it bad and good potential. On the negative side, it can be the root of security problems. On the other side of that coin is the notion that the solutions are largely in our collective hands.

In general, there are two sorts of deeds done in corrections. One variety can be performed with the notion of earning some sort of credit. The other is done for the sake of doing the job right. In other words, there are climbers and true professionals.

A climber can be defined as someone who orchestrates their duties only when others are looking. They do a good job, but it is masked in insincerity and is slef-serving. Theirs is a world of positive messages of their deeds for those in de jure or de facto power. The climber will generally not do a less-than-desirable task unless it is observed by someone who can advance his or her career.

The true professional does not need an audience or Kudos in order to do a job well. It is certain that no one can act with truly altruistic motives at all times. However, the professional does not need the credit as much as the climber.

There are plenty of each kind. And each of us can range between these two poles. One small, self serving deed does not necessarily taint an otherwise professional record. Unfortunately, most of us remember the negative rather than the positive. If you are honest with yourself, it is probably easier to name more climbers that you know than the vocational heroes.

Climbers, through a long chain of possible events, pose a hazard to operations. They may, in the spirit of subtle self-promotion, spread malicious rumors about non-competing professionals. Tarnished reputations cause disillusion and lower productivity. Formerly committed staff become less security conscious. Those who see through the climber’s activities can become jaded if the climber promotes. The administration may lose authority and credibility if a climber rises in the ranks.

All of this diminishes security. Every little distraction from the main goal of safety for all chips away at the foundation of security. This may not be evident, but it is true.

Just like the prevalent issue of staff division, this problem is easy to identify. The hard part is to realize the solutions. Here are some thoughts about climbers and true professionals that may put the solutions within reach.
  • Corrections staff can see through ruses. Climbers, no matter how cleverly they manipulate opinions, will eventually be discovered by colleagues. Climbers cannot hide in the long term.
  • The true professional does not consciously seek to be visible.
  • It is very easy to deride the overt climber. However, climber bashing exacerbates the balance of harmony in an institution.
  • Self scrutiny is essential in this and all issues that surround staff relations.
  • Humility is a key ingredient.
  • Many aspirations are also beneficial to the mission. It is the negative examples that sometimes taint the image of promoting.
  • Some climbers are effective leaders and should get the promotion based on skills rather than popularity.
  • There is such a thing as too much pride in being altruistic – it is elitist. At the risk of defending the stance of the climber, anti-climbing sentiment can be so potent that it detracts from the mission.
  • Each of us is a work in progress. No one adheres to the same role at all times.

Climbers and true professionals are just two of the many interesting archetypes we find in our challenging profession. We cannot all be model citizens all of the time. We are human. However, the lofty ideal is just a reach from the real. Solutions are within reach.

Editor's note: Corrections.com author, Joe Bouchard, has been with the Michigan Department of Corrections since 1993 as a Librarian for the Baraga Correctional Facility. He also teaches criminal justice and corrections classes for Gogebic Community College. He is the editor of The Correctional Trainer, the official journal of the International Association of Corrections Training Personnel and MCA Today, the official journal of the Michigan Corrections Association.

Visit the Joe Bouchard page

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