Are you a bureaucrat or an employee’s manager?

05 Apr

Group Of Happy Coworkers Discussing In Conference Room

Ah, the good old days of management, security included. Don’t care about your employees. Tell them what to do and where to go if they don’t like it! “There are a dozen people who will do your job if you quit, so go ahead and quit!” Unfortunately, back in my days with Wells Fargo (now Securitas), that’s what we were told to tell the officers.

If an officer asked me a question as to why they didn’t get a raise or something similar, my answer, coming from the corporate line was just that. “If you don’t like it then leave, we’ll find someone to replace you at the minimum wage”, which was $3.35 per hour.

It took a while, but I began to change my management style. From one of being a bureaucratic corporate spokesperson to one that was actually well liked and respected by the officers I managed. And what did I do differently to change? I listened and put myself in their place. I became an officer’s manager, which didn’t sit well with most of the management I worked for.

I also found out about the same time, after 14 years in the field, that I didn’t want to be a branch manager, operations supervisor, scheduler, or anything else to do with working in the office 24/7. I enjoyed being in the field working with the officers and being their advocate, which did get me in trouble more than once.

I made the change in my management style by doing all of 2 things. I began to empathize and listen to my officers. That’s it. I listened to them and what their needs were and then attempted to do what would be best for them, the company, & the client. Sometimes it didn’t work out well for 1, 2, or all 3 of them. But I did try to strike that balance. I usually came away with 1, 2, or all 3 mad, or ecstatic at what I did, at me.

The innumerable incidents of workplace violence (WPV) are littered with stories of people who weren’t listened to and subsequently brought a firearm to the office and killed someone. There is General Dynamics in 1993 that got the attention of HR and others as to their management style.

A man returned from a leave of absence after burying his 6-year-old son who had died of leukemia. It was obvious that he was distraught and his work performance was suffering because of his grief. HR called him to a meeting where they talked about terminating him. He then killed the HR manager & the union rep at the next meeting when he was to be actually terminated.

As security professionals it is imperative that we, sometimes, be the hardass of the company. We are tasked with enforcing the rules, regulations, & policies that may not be very popular with the employees. Some will resist and others will simmer slowly on the back burner.

But it is just as imperative that we listen & make accommodations as much as is possible for them. And with our own officers, it’s even more important to listen and care about what they are saying and doing right or wrong. They are after all part of the ‘extended family’ of the department and therefore needed to accomplish your mission of protecting property and saving lives.

An employee, who is having difficulties showing up on time or not being properly groomed, could be indicative of a problem at home. This is not saying that you have to solve their problems for them. But you do need to be a sounding board and show that you are interested in both their welfare as well as the security of the company/client. And the only way to do this is to take the time to learn who they are as well as the problem. It may not solve the underlying issues, but it may prevent some bad results by not listening to them.

There will also be other times, when it is just a blatant attempt at insubordination for whatever reason. Which means that you have to come down hard on the officer or employee and deny them whatever is against the rules in a harsh tone? And in the case of an officer write them up and counsel, or a harsher penalty, them. And make no apologies for it, sometimes it’s necessary.

I’ve had to discipline & terminate some of my officers in the past. Some were easy to do, because they were habitual rule breakers. Others were favorites of mine and it was harder. But for the sake of the company and/or the client it had to be done. And I would rather have done it by me, a friend, than by someone else.

The lesson for all of this is that you have to be willing to take the time to listen and care about your officers. It may also be necessary to defend those officers if they are accused unfairly, simply to get rid of them, which can be another trigger for a WPV incident.

So, what is your management style? Are you one who will listen and care for your officers? Or are you so tied into the bureaucratic style that you can’t bend for anyone or anything? Being too far on either side isn’t good. You have to strike a balance between being an a*****e and an officers manager, and not compromise either side. Can you do it?

To be a successful leader you must Engage, Empower, and Encourage

Marc Koehler


Robert D. Sollars is a recognized expert on security issues, specifically workplace violence. He’s spent nearly 33 years in the security field. Contact him at 480-251-5197 or Visit his Facebook page, One is too Many. Here you will read about other items related to security & WPV issues. Or be a twitter follower at @robertsollars2.

I May be Blind but my Vision is Crystal Clear



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