Fostering Cultural Change: Moving Past “The Way We’ve Always Done Things”

Dr. Jennifer Prohaska
June 10, 2024
June 14, 2024
min read

Does your agency abide by the, “but we’ve always done it this way” mentality? Change can be hard, especially in a field that’s notoriously resistant to it. But with research continuing to show an increase in officer burnout, it’s important to address the issues affecting your officers so you can promote positive cultural change. Read on to discover how to move past the “but we’ve always done it this way” mentality to help your agency retain high-quality officers. 

How Change Affects Officers 

So, how can we move past the negative barriers embedded in agencies and start guiding the path toward positive cultural change? There are two ways to avoid making your agency vacancies worse. First, be mindful of how change disrupts people psychologically. Second, be aware of how your own stress can impact how you react to officers. Here are some helpful tips for understanding how change can affect officers in your agency: 

1. Avoid making rapid or big changes as much as reasonably possible 

Rapid or big changes can add stress onto officers who already tend to have personalities that don’t enjoy change to begin with. The excess stress may be just enough to push an officer into considering leaving the field altogether. 

2. Big changes are negatively received if you give limited-to-no warning 

Lack of warning conveys a message of not really caring about how other people are thinking or feeling about your decisions, and can deteriorate trust in your agency significantly. 

3. Moving things around removes the expectation of predictability 

In this career, when most of your day is unpredictable, officers really put an extra value on things that are predictable. So when the agency starts moving the predictable things around without enough notice and preparation, officers tend to respond by becoming disengaged or leaving altogether.

4. Making changes to officer schedules could impact their personal time 

Be careful not to change schedules so much that their personal life is drastically impacted. When your officers are already stressed out by low-staffing and overtime, their personal time tends to come at an absolute premium. 

Lead the Change 

Now that we’ve looked at how your officers can be impacted by change, let’s dive into how you, as a leader, need to be aware of how your own stress can impact how you react to officers. 

  • Be mindful of overly punitive responses to your members; you may be choosing those responses out of your own frustration. 
  • Think about the stressors that could be impacting you as a leader. 
  • Try to be as self-aware as possible about your own personal reactions or similar experiences, because it could impact your approach to the situation.

It’s important to remember that an officer may not be having their best career moment, but you may not be, either. For a closer look at how you can improve the relationships between supervisors and subordinates in your agency, check out this blog post

▶️ Watch more on this:

Foster Cultural Change with an Anti-Fragility Mindset 

By fostering an anti-fragility mindset from the ground up, agencies can build a culture that officers continue to want to be a part of. Research has shown that adapting and growing stronger in the face of adversity is an essential tool for officers. In our Anti-Fragility Mindset Program, we lay out a science-backed blueprint to demonstrate the art of bouncing back, proving that by embracing the six elements of overcoming adversity, officers can thrive. Be the change that creates a healthier agency culture, which will ultimately lead to better officer retention and community engagement. 

If you’re interested in learning more about how you can improve the relationships in your agency, schedule a call with us today. You can also take our 2-minute quiz to pinpoint your department’s strengths and areas for growth. You’ll receive a customized report complete with a tailored analysis with actionable recommendations.

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