"They're not loyal to the organization like we are,"is an all too common complaint from Baby Boomer (44 to 62 years old) and Silent Generation (63 and older) police supervisors. Yep. They're different all right, these Generation X (27 to 43 years) and Y (26 and younger) officers. But then, so is the world. Police managers can adapt, or become obsolete--with the result that the profession will be unable to attract and retain enough new officers to meet the challenges of this new millennium.
It's a New World--Are You Brave Enough to Enter it?
When Baby Boomers and the Silent Generation talk about loyalty to the organization, they mean this: You make the department your first and foremost priority--even above your family. You do what you're told. If we switch your shift, you switch. If we move you from property crimes to narcotics enforcement or sexual assault or crimes against children, you switch. If we transfer you to another city or town, you move. If we go from four tens to five eights, you change. You don't question, you don't complain. In exchange, you get job security. If you get to where you can't or won't carry a full load, we'll take up the slack or find another job for you in the organization until you can retire and draw your pension.
NEWS FLASH--that traditional view of loyalty is dead amongst Gen Xers and Ys. Changes in the world explain why.
The Silent Generation and Baby Boomers were kids during the Industrial Age. That era emphasized the manufacturing of products and rewarded the assembly line's capacity to do the same thing over and over as efficiently and cheaply as possible. In the Industrial Age, leadership was at the top of a pyramid, hierarchical structure of command and control.
Gen Xers and Ys grew up in the Information Age of the 1980s to the present, which focuses on the manipulation of information, is fast-paced and changing, and rewards innovation and flexibility. In the Information Age, effective leadership is in the center reaching out, networking, encouraging "speaking up" and asking questions. It is, after all, called the Net or the Web, not the Pyramid.
A different world shapes a different view of loyalty. Understanding these forces may be helpful, but if police management is going to remain relevant it will have to adapt to this new world. We've come a long way from the Industrial Age and we're just moving farther away faster.
It's Not Disloyalty Just Because It's Different
The traditional loyalty of the Silent Generation and Baby Boomers can be found in the dictionary definition of loyalty, which includes "faithful adherence." Faith is sometimes called upon to be blind--all accepting and unquestioning. Blind faith can support a blind loyalty.
Don't even expect that brand of loyalty from the new generations of officers. They are understandably skeptical about organizations, don't particularly value job security because they can't really envision it, and have been raised by families and global circumstances to question a status quo that changes quickly and often.
What Gen Xers and Ys do value is a key to understanding how to win their loyalty.
Studies show that the top 3 job requirements of Gen Ys are:
Asked about their top 3 work motivators, Gen Xers said:
Alliance is the New Loyalty
Alliance is defined as a formal agreement between two or more parties to cooperate for specific purposes; a merging of efforts or interests by persons or organizations.
When we look at what Gen X and Y officers want from their departments we see it's going to take an alliance between them and management, not unquestioning and even blind loyalty in exchange for job security and a pension. If police leadership wants loyalty in this millennium it's going to have to change from paternalism to partnership, from a pyramid to a network, from adherence to alliance.
This is great news. Forming meaningful alliances between police leadership and its new generations of officers may be challenging but it's not about offering more pay or perks. And allies can be extremely loyal. Their allegiance isn't unquestioning. Instead it's an informed decision to work in partnership towards a shared purpose and mission--in this case protecting and serving the community.
Come back next month, on July 8, for some practical tips on "how-to" form partnerships and alliances with the future of policing.