is influenced largely by the work environment. Glidden says one of the
biggest contributors to a bad work environment in police agencies is a
lack of accountability. If you’re not making employees accountable for
poor quality work or other issues, your top performers will become
“It’s about the work environment you create,” Glidden said. “It’s how
you interact with employees. And that doesn’t cost you a penny.”
3 KEY TAKEAWAYS
1. You need to correct problematic behavior (and you need to do it early).
believes conflict avoidance - particularly when it comes from
leadership - is one of the biggest problems in law enforcement today. As
a police leader, when you avoid conflict, you’re also avoiding
Waiting until a problem balloons before addressing
it will only cause more problems. Glidden used the example of a
constantly tardy employee to illustrate his point. If you wait until the
tenth or fifteenth time an employee is late to call out the behavior,
you’re more likely to get a poor reaction than if you intervene early.
(“Why is this suddenly a problem?”)
Accountability shows your
employees you’re paying attention, you care, and your expectations and
values matter. All of this creates a healthy work environment and good
morale. But correcting problematic behavior doesn’t necessarily mean a
slap on the wrist or a suspension, which leads us to takeaway number
2. Accountability isn’t about punishment.
to Glidden, police leaders need to understand that accountability isn’t
about punishment - it’s about future performance.
isn’t very effective in changing behavior. Sending an employee home does
nothing to improve their future performance, but feedback does.
Feedback improves morale by maintaining employee accountability, giving
employees recognition, keeping them from guessing about their work, and
providing them clear expectations.
Glidden says negative feedback
should be given in person, that you should have empathy when delivering
that feedback, and you should offer solutions to the problem, not just
3. Addressing these behaviors is a seven-step process.
Here’s Glidden’s step-by-step breakdown of how to address morale-killing behaviors:
Identify the specific problem behavior
Make sure the problem is something you have the authority to correct.
Be specific and ask yourself if the issue is an observable behavior, not
an attitude or feeling. You can’t enforce a change in attitude, but you
can enforce a change in behavior.
Determine the performance gap
What’s the gap between your expectations and the employee’s performance? What needs to be done to close the gap?
Figure out what the consequences to your organization are if the employee’s behavior continues.
What’s the next step if the employee does not adjust their behavior?
Make a plan
Map out your strategy for getting the results you seek.
Have a performance discussion
Give the employee feedback about the behavior and why it needs to
change. Keep it to one behavior per discussion. If this isn’t your first
discussion about the issue, outline consequences the employee will face
if the behavior doesn’t change.
If the behavior changes for the positive, acknowledge it. If it doesn’t change, take the next steps outlined in your plan.
Another big factor in a poor work environment, according to Glidden, is what he calls a culture of compliance.
“We’ve built a workforce that thinks doing the bare minimum is what it’s all about,” Glidden told the audience.
When some employees are doing the bare minimum, this demoralizes your
top performers. Employees need to believe there’s more to work than
avoiding getting yelled at by doing the bare minimum and not breaking
any policy. Glidden says what police agencies need from employees isn’t
compliance, but commitment. Committed employees make your life easier by
doing more than what’s expected of them and doing what’s right
regardless of policy, even when no one is looking.
But cops don’t become committed because of their love of law
enforcement, they become committed because of a supervisor. They do more
than is needed for you, a supervisor they trust. You need to build that trust with them.
If you don’t correct minor mistakes, they can become permanent.
You’re not nitpicking, you’re changing the employee’s behavior for
Cole Zercoe is the Senior Associate Editor of PoliceOne,
responsible for writing and editing news articles, original columns,
product articles, and trade show coverage. From the latest police
technologies and innovations to the emerging threats cops face in the
digital age, his features focus on the complexity of policing in the