FEATURED IN TECHNOLOGY AND COMMUNICATIONS
Do you still love your job? While you’re getting ready to start your shift, do you still look forward to what your day may bring you? For you seasoned folks, do you even remember the feeling of putting on the uniform for the first time? You may have prepared everything the night before your first day—pressing the creases just right, putting on and polishing your collar brass, packing your lunch or dinner the night before and making sure you had a clean notebook to take notes during your training.
Or maybe you’re dreading your alarm going off—hitting the snooze button just one more time. Do you have to talk yourself through getting ready to go to work every shift? Are you racing out the door to relieve your coworker just before being late for duty? Does the sound of ringing phones, alert tones and sirens send you over the edge? Have you stopped smiling? Have you stopped loving your job?
If you’ve stopped loving your job, it’s important to get to the root of the cause. Was it politics, management, policy changes, staffing, coworkers, the public or maybe a combination of them all? Have you become so hardened that you’ve stopped caring about the people you serve? Or maybe you’ve even stopped caring about the folks that you work with. Has the job outgrown you? Has the technology left you behind with your pencil and notepad feeling like an antiquated dinosaur while the new “kid” comes in, typing up calls for service at the same time as texting, Facebooking and updating their Twitter account seemingly? Have you become that grumpy, grouchy, old timer that used to scare the daylights out of you every time you came to work “back in the day?” You know the one—the field unit that worked the road before there were cell phones, laptops and GPS. The one you swore you’d never turn into.
Don’t get me wrong—I’ve been in public safety for more years than I care to admit. Trainees are starting to get younger and younger. The other day, I quoted something from the t.v. show Hee Haw and two thirds of my shift mates looked at me like I was speaking in tongues. When did I become the oldest one of the shift? One good thing: I’ve noticed as a trainer that the younger generation seems to be easier to train because the technology doesn’t scare them.
We all have days that make us want to hang up our handcuffs or headsets. The problem occurs when the feeling never goes away. I’ve worked with some miserable people in my day and let me tell you that sometimes I just want to strangle them with my phone cord! I beg of you, if you’ve gotten to a place in your career where you’ve lost the spark and energy that pushed you to apply in the first place, please—please—please look for another line of work!
Public safety is something that can’t be done mediocre. My husband is a deputy, my friends and colleagues are deputies, officers and firefighters. How do you explain to someone that you weren’t doing your job to the fullest of your ability because you lacked motivation? The public and your coworkers expect that you’re on top of your game—their lives depend on it. If the crappy part of our job—i.e., the media, lack of manpower, lack of appreciation, lack of meritocratic pay, etc.—keeps you from doing the best that you can do, please consider that this isn’t the career for you.
I know this is easier said than done for those who need an income to survive. But is your paycheck worth someone else’s life? If you need a change, think of the things that can get you to where you want to be. Maybe you want to stay in the public safety field. Does you department pay tuition reimbursement? Is there training at your department that you can take advantage of that might prepare you for a different position? Has your attitude kept you from transferring to another division? Think about ways to change that attitude. No one is going to hire or transfer what’s considered a “problem” employee to another division. And don’t think managers and supervisors don’t share that kind of information—they do. Does your department have a gym that you have access to? Run or walk off that bad attitude on your break or after your shift. Be part of the solution to some of the problems you may see. Get involved without expecting anything in return. Volunteer to help out on small projects. If you’ve been at your department for a while, I’m sure you have good experience that you can share. Keep up on trends in the industry. There are tons of free publications on the Internet that can keep you informed on the latest and greatest things that are happening in our industry.
Remind yourself that a bad attitude and poor morale is highly contagious. Do you really want to be the one that’s known for bringing your whole shift down? Think about why you started in the public safety field in the first place. Did you want to serve your community in a significant way? Did you want to help be a part of something bigger than yourself? Public safety professionals are the best of the best! We can accomplish things that look absolutely impossible on paper. We’re the only ones who run toward a problem when everyone else is running away.
I remember reading a newspaper article long ago stating something to the effect that only two percent of the nation’s population could work as a 911 telecommunicator. At the time, I worked at a small but exceptionally busy police department. We often worked shorthanded and basically did the best we could under the circumstances. One particularly challenging night my shift mate Lisa Lewis (Little Lisa as she is affectionately nicknamed due to her small stature) and I were running nonstop between the phones and radio, and just when I thought we had reached our limit, I called out, “Hey Lisa!” She glanced over at me with a "this-better-be-important" look. “We are the top two percent, sister!” She smiled and never stopped typing.
What we do is extremely important—monumental even. Not just to me and the rest of your public safety family, but to those you serve every day. Try to remember why you’re here and that you’re the only one who can let yourself have a bad attitude.
Stay safe, my family.