5 Ways Corrections Supervisors Can Better Connect With Their Teams

Greg Piper
Greg Piper

In corrections, staff turnover can be as high as 65%. Employees don't leave organizations. They leave bosses. Employees will often feel that they're undervalued or underdeveloped. Leaders take time to develop staff into leaders. Make a better impression on front line staff by being in service to these officers. Here are five effective ways that supervisors can better connect with their teams.

  1. Get out on the floor. 

    Remember, you got promoted because you were really good at your job. You were a floor officer, you were working the line, and you did a great job. You were attentive, dedicated, you went above and beyond, you knew how to handle stressful situations, write complete reports, and provide value to the organization.

    When you got promoted you lost the opportunity to do what you did really well in the first place. It’s critical you get back on the floor, meet with the line staff on a regular basis and teach them the skills that got you promoted in the first place. Converse with them, and find out the things that are working for them, and the things that make the job better. One area that new staff consistently struggle with is communicating effectively and professionally with offenders. Take a quick walk with your staff and demonstrate that skill for them. Officers need help being better officers, and becoming role models. Passing down the wisdom and knowledge we have can only happen through actual interactions on the floor.

  2. Make time for your staff. 

    This goes hand-in-hand with getting out on the floor. This doesn’t just mean, “Hey I’m going to be out on the floor.” You actually have to make time, whether it’s office time or scheduled time. Make time to be available for your staff, and get to know them. Have specific office hours so staff knows they can come in, sit down with you and talk to you about things that bother them, ideas for improvements, or ideas they might have. Have an open-door policy, get to know them, and make time for them.

  3. Make a schedule.

    Have a consistent schedule for yourself which will not only help you but assist your staff in knowing when you’re available. Most importantly, stick to it! We all know $hit happens, and we’re always going to be busy trying to chase our tail. Sometimes we have to cut our losses and let some things go, but make a schedule so things remain consistent. Your staff will become more comfortable and know that every Monday, Lt. is available from this time to this time. Make sure to clear your desk, and have things in order. We know things are going to get out of control, that’s the nature of corrections, but consistency and giving both yourself and your staff that consistent schedule will benefit all involved.  Your staff will be safer and know the ship is running smoothly, despite anything else going on, if their supervisor sticks to their schedule.

  4. Don’t be afraid to counsel your staff.

    Working in a small or medium-sized jail you work with your line officers every day. You know them well.  You’ve gone to their wedding. You’ve attended their graduations, funerals, and backyard BBQs. Despite being close with your team, you still need to take the time to counsel and discipline when necessary.  Staff needs to have some sort of external guideline to know how they are doing for them to remain successful. We can’t let reviews go and allow your team to wander aimlessly - whether good or bad - sometimes you need to lock them in and knock the rust off a few things to help them be successful. Discipline just means order. It doesn’t have to mean punishment. Regrouping and reordering or tweaking guidelines can help staff members reach their goals for the job as well. Some may want to remain a front line officer, while others may grow into supervising roles if given the right skills, tricks, and the right counseling and order.

  5. Share Knowledge by Delegating

    Most of you know a supervisor that you’d had in the past that knew everything and hung onto it like they were freakin’ Gollum. As a supervisor, STOP! Knowledge is not power. The ability to share that knowledge is power. We have a whole generation of supervisors that are getting ready to age out, and we need to make sure the knowledge and experience they possess is passed down. I have consistently found out that when I travel to these agencies across the U.S. and find an officer that is young and may be new and not fitting it, I say to them, “Hey, you seem to grasp this concept. Why don’t you become the subject matter expert on this, and train other officers on it.” You as a supervisor can give them hope, something to hold on to, and something to show up to work for. Be sure to share your knowledge, and stop holding on to it. Share it, so everyone on the team feels a part of the process, wants to come to work, knows they have something to contribute, and wants to be a part of the corrections family.

Following these 5 things: Get out of the floor, Make time for your staff, Make a schedule, Don’t be afraid to counsel, and share knowledge by delegating, will help your staff to become more engaged, want to stick around, and want to be a part of the corrections community.

As always, get your team home safe.

Greg Piper