|By Carl ToersBijns, former deputy warden, ASPC Eyman, Florence AZ|
Bureaucratic meddling is a symptomatic disease that is prevalent wherever there are motives or reasons for control and dominance. Although it sounds like it has a harmless effect on things it is quite contagious and must be addressed in order for things to get back on track and run smoothly or as designed. The matter of fact when such conditions exist in many areas of law enforcement and public safety are that there are harmful practices that are endured or sustained while inflicting irreversible damage to people’s reputation and work ethics without a warning. It also creates hazardous conditions and elements of risk along the way.
Giving an example of governance interference or meddling, take the case where a county detention facility has failed repeatedly over the last ten years to retain a qualified and successful jail administrator and how the dynamics in the background impact the quality of such programs to exist and endure catastrophism that could have been avoided if the government knew how to control itself. It seemed that at the end of every year or so, they would fire or dismiss this individual for reasons that amount to incompatibility with the board of county commissioners or county manager.
Self-control and regulatory controls are a basic necessity for good operational values and effectiveness. However, head of government agencies or regulatory boards or commissions should allow those chosen or appointed to such key positions to function as designed or designated by both state law or personnel rules and regulations covering their job description, responsibilities and accountability factors. Unfortunately many are reluctant to give up their own power to allow this to happen.
Whether they believe it or not bureaucratic meddling carries with it unintentional consequences that are often misbranded on the wrong persons. Sadly, this creates reasons for wrongful terminations and ill branded reputations because the blame has been shifted to those under the supervision of such bureaucrats and not these officeholders themselves. It is a sanitized way to conduct business these days and offers many a blanket of being politically correct and without blemishes on their records.
Meddling in operational issues such as safety and security, staffing patterns and roster management they tend to direct rather than coach and this is indicative of how the bureaucratic wisdom has caused severe shortages of people, services and resources where you need them. Sometimes bureaucratic interference doesn't create an actual shortage of something but simply drives its price sky high and somewhat spirals costs out of control. The fact remains they override the role of the person in charge of such decision making and sabotage [directly or indirectly] or interrupt [intentionally or unintentionally] the role of the administrator.
Staffing shortages, pricing screw-ups related to contractual services [food, medical, transportation, etc.]and procurement of essential safety or facility equipment, tools and services, unintended adverse consequences based on the practice of micromanaging areas where they have no expertise or experience in [specifically the promulgation of policies and procedures, post orders etc.] all contribute to governmental meddling that drives those charged with the responsibility to perform crazy because of their inability to control their work environment.
In the end, there is no progress, no chance and no hopes of ever getting back on track and do the best they can using established written and verbal practices already sanctioned by the national accreditation organizations that oversee such practices nationwide.
Therefore the one main ingredient for better government and operational values is to instill a culture of trust within the organization and its leadership positions. It is very important that we recognize that trust is a most valuable commodity within any workplace and that is something that must be cherished, fostered and maintained over the years to ensure there is a spirit of clear and concise communications between the upper management levels and the work force.
Trust will eliminate many problems and issues that are created by rumors, gossip and any awkward or unexplainable behaviors that foster such suspicions. So how does an organization build trust and confidence in its leadership you must ask? It’s not that simple and takes deliberate planning by the organizational culture to ensure it is being embraced.
Gaining trust means engaging with others and winning them over to your way of thinking. It means to make a situational assessment on everything you are exposed to and giving off an inference that you care and are willing to address it appropriately and in a timely manner.
Searching for common ground is one method. Finding those individuals that have shared similar experiences as yourself is one way to find yourself dealing with it in a “human factor” method. Sharing experiences offers mutual respect. When respectful behavior or involvement is recognized you establish mutual feelings and skill levels.
Understanding the reality of the workplace and showing others that you are not without fault is another method of winning people over. Being described as someone with his or her “feet on the ground” gives credibility to what you say and do. This elimination of the persona barrier helps formulate a circle of inference that gives off support, understanding, honesty and open mindedness that is essential in effective communication efforts. Share your moral values, your professional intentions and let them know what your value system consists of whenever you are in a position to come across as being an understanding leader.
Giving someone your personal and professional advice is difficult in a workplace culture. It stands to be extorted or manipulated to suit those that have ulterior motives to mislead others into acts damaging to the organization or individuals within. However, this vulnerability is an effective tool to show people you care about their welfare and their needs and sustains your credibility longer and stronger than words will ever give you during your career.
Personally, I have found that getting into the “trenches” and doing things to get your “hands dirty” is one of the most effective ways to win people over. Showing you know what it takes to get the job done is most impressive to those that watch and notice everything you do. Not only do you earn respect but you have the opportunity to learn more about the workforce and their culture.
Last but not least is your time management on engaging with the workforce. You must make time for those who work for you and with you. It’s much easier to win people over when you work besides them and show them a genuine effort to do the same things they are responsible for doing. Sitting at the same table they eat and talk at adds value to your presence and your leadership qualities. It also gives you ample opportunities to learn more about the job at hand and make better decisions to allow management the headway to do the job without meddling and giving the process a chance to work as it should per performance expectations and outcomes designed by the strategic plan.
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. Carl’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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