In the pages of this blog we have previously discussed the problem of stress on public safety dispatchers and first-responders. Police, emergency response personnel, the folks who take 911 calls and dispatch to 911 calls… however you look at the problem, from whatever angle, it is a fact that public safety takes a punishing toll on those who work within it. Caliber is proud to provide software solutions to those who sacrifice so much in the service of protecting their communities. The ongoing problem, however, does repeatedly raise the question of what to do about it. We will therefore spend a little time reexamining this issue… but perhaps from a different angle.

While stress management and coping techniques are important for those working in public safety, there are a number of different management approaches that can be taken to improve morale among public safety personnel. These steps are neither new nor innovative. In fact, in a decade-old article in Police1, Olivia Johnson highlights several techniques for improving morale among those working in public safety. All these years later and these tried and true methods have not changed… but remain elusive in some agencies and municipalities because of a combination of inertia, human nature, and reluctance to change from the way things have “always been done.”

Why does morale matter? The better the morale of an agency, the more resilient its personnel will be when dealing with the stress of working in public safety. “Morale is a thermometer for the health of your department,” Johnson writes. “Research and literature link organizational stress to such things as diminished job satisfaction, increased employee turnover, decreased motivation and low morale. Improving morale is everyone’s responsibility, but the idea is to improve morale in a way that creates the greatest positive impact.”

Johnson highlights several techniques, including giving credit where it’s due, avoiding micromanaging, staying engaged, eliminating unnecessary conflict, celebrating personnel milestones, communicating openly, and asking personnel what would help them most. This last is of particular importance: Improving public safety morale doesn’t have to be a mystery. Your people are right there; it will serve you simply to ask them what they want and need to do and feel better.

The other points are fairly self-explanatory, but deserve to be underscored. Nothing kills morale faster than feeling you are underappreciated. The more you give credit where it is due, the better overall morale will be. At the same time, in high-stress environments, conflicts over even small disagreements or frictions can occur. Working to eliminate these petty conflicts so staff can focus on the true challenges of the job can make a very real, very perceptible difference in agency morale.

Mostly, though, the battle for morale and the fight against stress in public safety is a battle we all must fight. It involves every single one of us, from support personnel to first responders and those providing software support. Caliber takes its role seriously in supporting public safety professionals throughout the industry. As we all work together, we work toward a brighter future for all involved.