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Correctional Supervisors with Bad Traits
By Carl ToersBijns, former deputy warden, ASPC Eyman, Florence AZ
Published: 04/22/2013

Badsupervisor Correctional officers needs good bosses and good leadership to get them through the rigorous tasks of keeping a prison or large jail safe and secure. They totally rely on good supervisors to guide them yet every time it is asked what causes you the most stress at your workplace the answer appears to be bad supervisors. Supervisors are not necessarily leaders but with a little bit awareness supervisors can become better. This awareness can prepare them to do a better job and prepare for the job’s challenges and obstacles provided by an unnatural surrounding that is considered dark and evil and officers can be set up for failure from the start.

Bad bosses can create bad situations. The damage is relentless and deeply impact teamwork and productivity as well as confidence and trust. When a supervisor demonstrates poor character qualities everybody suffers in the end as the mission or goals may never be attained fully and with the kind of excellence and success required to keep things safe. It has been said that “failure is not an option” and supervisors hold the key to success. Here are five traits of a supervisor that if addressed can improve your chances of success.

Arrogant. “Because I told you so” does not work anymore with today’s generation of workers and inmates. They are above the simplicity of just being told to do something without an explanation or some type of communication that allows acceptance or compliance. Cultures change or vary in values by generations and can divide the team creating an “us versus them” attitude. Today’s workers want to avoid being caught in a trap and mind games or hidden agendas. They want to know what is going on and will ask questions to satisfy their own curiosity.

Opaque. Wanting to acquire trust of confidence requires a reasonable level of transparency. A good supervisor can instill management tools that can instill trust and enable an organization to run in an organized manner. Today’s employees are always worried about the “set up” or being the ‘fall guy” or “scapegoat” and want something in the form of feedback or documentation that they are not going to be disciplined or accused of doing something wrong.

Undisciplined. Poor supervisors often delegate in a reckless and appalling manner. Their skill levels are questionable and impact how effectively they manage the shift or team. Many lacked the opportunity to be prepared for such a job. Bad bosses have poor delegation skills and they don’t manage the team. Delegating is a deliberate act to allow someone else to do a job and conducting “drive by” delegation orders often results in no follow up and taking things for granted they were done. Officers resent being taken advantage of and lack of recognition of doing a good job. Instead of doing a “drive by” supervisors should try to sit down and explain the project, direction or task so that the desired outcome and the expectation is equal to his or her satisfaction. Paying attention to details is the best way to ensure successful delegation methods.

Detached. Supervisors that demonstrate no ownership or no interest in their team or employees are often detached from the workplace realities. Nobody expects a supervisor to be a “warm and fuzzy” kind of person but in order to recognize your employees with understanding and knowing their strengths and weakness; they must take the time to get to know them better. Empathizing, listening and paraphrasing helps understand the situation better and often results in better communication, performance and compliance.

Self-awareness. Bad supervisors often lack self confidence and fail to assess their own strengths and weaknesses. They don’t take the time to look at their own flaws and challenge themselves to be better in their decision making, knowledge or policies and procedures and general workplace attitudes that need to be adjusted or adapted in order to communicate effectively. Realizing their own vulnerability and shortcomings will allow them to self-adjust and become better at their job with continued self improvements and learning skills.

When supervisors perform at higher levels and demonstrate better confidence, skills and abilities to manage the job surrounding, it instills confidence in the workplace and those around them. It also lowers the anxiety and stress levels of many officers whether new or veterans at their positions as it gives them a sense of guidance and ability to get the job done and having a supervisor that has their backs every time they go out and get the job done.

Editor’s note: Carl ToersBijns (retired), worked in corrections for over 25 yrs He held positions of a Correctional Officer I, II, III [Captain] Chief of Security Mental Health Treatment Center – Program Director – Associate Warden - Deputy Warden of Administration & Operations. Car’s prison philosophy is all about the safety of the public, staff and inmates, "I believe my strongest quality is that I create strategies that are practical, functional and cost effective."

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