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A Cup of Coffee in Corrections
By Carl ToersBijns, former deputy warden, ASPC Eyman, Florence AZ
Published: 09/16/2013

Coffeecups First of all not everybody drinks coffee so you must make a rule that if you don’t care for coffee, it is likely you have another favorite drink whether it is tea, bottled water or an energy drink but regardless what it only matters that you can apply this “coffee or drink” as a metaphor to what is about to be explained to you as a correctional supervisor or mid-level manager working in a high stress place like a large jail or prison.

One has to wonder what a cup of coffee has in common with working in field of corrections and prison work. It has everything in common. One might say there is a direct relationship between a cup of coffee, its contents and its purpose. If you look at it from another point of view and be open minded enough to see the benefits within the drink. Prison work is not rocket science profession as everything you are taught lays out the foundation of the job and only requires you to take in a few simple things that will make your job easier and safer. Having said that let’s get down to having a cup of coffee and relax a little to understand how it helps you get the work done.

First of all a cup of coffee represents the respect you and your employees deserve while doing this most danger job within the criminal justice system. You may want to discuss your business matters in your proper setting using mutual respect issues and common sense so you can learn something from someone else. Listen and really listen to the other person. Keep your mouth shut and your ears open as you look for useful information from your employee. As you become aware of crucial concerns, you are able to motivate your employees to participate in problem solving and manage the issues effectively. In return for such deliberate attention towards your staff you will be rewarded with a mutual level of respect that is earned by the manner you do your job.

Along with respect comes a cup of motivation as the two come together and makes it work out like a little bit of magic in the air. When you treat your employees like adults there are benefits and gives them the confidence they can handle the truths of the job. Trying to shelter them with lies only backfires and serves no other person but hurting them in the long run as they are never really protected from the workplace where issues are harsh realities of the job itself and the potential dangers that lurk around every corner.

Yes, you can use the coffee cup metaphor as a management and motivation tool. Having a “cup of coffee” with your staff gives you the opportunity to sit down, listen and learn with them. Your conversation with your personnel over coffee can be a powerful employee motivational tool. You can gain valuable information about yourself, your staff, the company and your workplace culture as you share coffee or the time to get to know each other better.

That leads you to the cup of time and wisdom for managing our resources and employees effectively. Meetings are great for those that have the time to do them but working alongside while on the job gives employees a feeling of worth and value that is more important when it is shared with respect and motivation. Showing you are never too busy to work side by side can do more to maximize your effectiveness than anything else in the leadership manual. It gives you a rare opportunity to walk the walk and talk the talk that is so important for credibility.

You can never make up for lost time but you can schedule quality time with your staff just by taking a few minutes out of your busy schedule and taking your employee out for a cup of coffee. Simply said, buy a soft drink or a cup of coffee for the person you are meeting and sit at a table and talk. Set aside the phones or cellphones at the moment and enjoy the moment of opportunity to get to know your staff.

Corrections.com author, Carl ToersBijns, (retired), has 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."

Other articles by ToersBijns:


  1. StephanieCasey on 04/21/2020:

    Organic Coffee benefits will be the advantages you gain from drinking coffee grown organically without any chemical induction through the growing process. reusable coffee cups

  2. keatonjefferson on 02/09/2020:

    I find all the contents relating to the post very informative and attractive at the same time. It left me completely astonised and it was all about the Commercial coffee machines. I would highly suggest for everyone to take some time out to read this amazing post.

  3. DeannaH on 09/16/2013:

    This is so true and based on the fact that most Corrections Administrators are required to make rounds and talk to the inmates it is important to give the staff this same opportunity. However, I tried to ensure the staff received more of my time and more undivided attention. You mentioned that you need to "really listen" and along with that making them feel like you are really listening. You can even prove it by following through on their suggestions which really helps in earning that respect. Mind you, not all suggestions but good ones or some issues that you can resolve, makes a lot of difference and then the word travels fast among the staff.

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