Morale! It starts with you.

By Michael DeOrian posted 05-11-2017 03:09

Morale is a constant issue we face in public safety answering points. It is something I have struggled with, both when I was a dispatcher, and as a supervisor. Career burnout can happen very fast , but there are things we can do to curb that.

Personnel are confined to a room for long hours, have to deal with high-stress incidents, and also have to deal with difficult coworkers (from inside the Comm. Center and on the other side of the radio). Many dispatchers/call takers feel a lack of the ability to grow - while on the sworn side there are many growth and developmental opportunities, but in Communications- in many agencies there is limited growth potential.

How can supervisors and managers impact morale?  When you ask someone how you can make things better, you may hear things like--  give us more pay! give us better benefits! give us more time off!Well, many of those are bargaining issues that supervisors and managers do not have control over. This doesn't mean you can't do things to keep your dispatchers/call takers happy.

My first job ever was in retail- as a "Cast Member" for Disney Store (and no, I am not a Disney person). I learned a lot from this job, especially when I was promoted to lead (shift supervisor). I had a manager who was very strict. She would let you know right away if you did something wrong, but she would always give you feedback and show you the right way to do it. When you did something well, she always let you know. She gave positive write ups, more than negative write ups. She took the time to recognize small things that people did right.  She would have Starbucks and Jamba Juice gift cards on hand, and if she noticed you doing something above and beyond- she'd give you a gift card for a coffee or smoothie.  I always thought this was such a neat and positive way to recognize your employees. Of course, not everyone wants to or can afford to pay for things like this out of their own pocket- but it showed her dedication to the job and how much she valued her employees.

Whether you are a working supervisor, or a supervisor who sits in an office and  off the line- you have to remember your roots. Remember those difficult callers who call you every name in the book (and some new names you never could have imagined). The difficult officers who snap at you on the radio ... or the sergeant who calls up and yells when you make a mistake.  Remember how stressful that was?  Well, our dispatchers and call takers deal with that on a full time basis.  While we may not have to deal with this (or, maybe you do if you are a line supervisor/manager), it wears on you . It's every single day! giving the dispatchers/call takers a sunny moment in a cloudy day can go a long way. 

While we may not be able to give our people raises, or more time off- there are small, simple things you - as a supervisor or manager- can do.  Does your agency have a uniform policy? Give your employees a free dress day. Why? Just because. Why not?  Allow a relaxed dress on Fridays, or on weekends.  It is something very simple, that costs NOTHING. Give them a day to wear jeans instead of khakis.  Can you turn on some music in the background ? ( this one may be tough because people disagree on music genres) 

If you are a in a position where you can buy your team lunch or coffee once a month, do it.   Why?  Well, who doesn't like it when their boss buys them coffee , or pizza!

Sometimes in this industry, we tend to focus on the negative. We look at employee mistakes under a microscope, and with a fine tooth comb. We are professionals , so that is understandable- but take a look at how you interact with your employees . Do you take the time to commend them when they do a good job? Just a simple "Hey , you did a great job on that pursuit!" goes a long way versus a supervisor who does not pay attention and doesn't ever have anything but negative to say.

You can be known as the supervisor or manager that people know and love for being fair, but nice and fun - or you can be the supervisor who is known as being heavy with the hammer and short on smiles. It's up to you !  Talk to your employees, get to know them- see what ideas they have to make your workplace better.  There are some really smart cookies that you might not even know about, you just have to give them a chance for their voice to be heard!

1 comment



09-19-2017 03:42

This is a really good and eye opening post! I am not yet a supervisor/manager but our department does struggle with morale issues especially right now. This article does highlight what people can do and that sometimes the slightest bit of recognition goes along way. When people are recognized they want to do better and have motivation to do so. While pay increases and other monetary things are nice they are not always the answer.
Great read!