Another challenge we put out there is for them to take a look at their own morale. While the initial idea behind the training was to encourage supervisors to consider the impact of morale on those under them and to take responsibility for leading in a way that builds morale, it quickly became obvious that the supervisors we were meeting were often wrestling with their own low morale.
We ask our participants to assess their morale, to find what boosts their morale and what brings it down, and to determine what they have the power to change or control and what they must accept (at least in that moment, if not permanently) as out of their control.
The old proverb, Physician, heal thyself, is often interpreted as urging those who focus on helping others overcome their problems and shortcomings to first look within. It is well-heeded. How can a leader tend to their subordinates if not first squared away themselves? How can an example of managing morale be set by a leader if they cannot manage their own? Taking responsibility for your own morale is the first step in helping others with theirs.
Nothing endures but change
Change has a considerable psychological impact on the human mind. To the fearful it is threatening because it means that things may get worse. To the hopeful it is encouraging because things may get better. To the confident it is inspiring because the challenge exists to make things better.
-King Whitney, Jr
Change is going to happen and how we adapt to meet its challenges will largely determine our future personal and professional satisfaction. Unfortunately, a lot of people - and cops are no exception - resist the inevitability of change and become anxious or resentful, instead of excited and open. Anxiety and anger are key ingredients of low morale.
Whether the changes you face are those dictated by new and tightening budgetary constraints, legal decisions affecting how you do your job, evolving policies and procedures, or any other factors associated with the job, it does little good to remain stuck in the way things used (or ought) to be when the currents have already swept us downstream from that point. Instead, look to how best to do the job in the present future. You may just find new and better opportunities for policing.
Creativity combats boredom, another common contributor to low morale. Whether you are a supervisor or line officer/detective, keeping things fresh for yourself or your direct reports is one of the surest ways to keep policing fun.
Creativity is bounded only by the limits of your own imagination, and if you pool your ideas with others those boundaries can be expanded. Look for ways to break out of ruts that lead to diminished morale by asking yourself (or those under you) What would make the job more fun? Then find ways to apply whatever answers you come up with.
Low morale is an age old problem; however, the solutions start with the individual not the agency. So if you were to take on the problem of low morale, where would you start?