The Honor You Earn: Every Day Matters
By Greg Bogosian
This article is provided by Blauer Manufacturing and does not necessarily reflect the opinions of PoliceOne.
In most jobs, all that’s required at a very basic level is to show up and procedurally do everything you’re supposed to do, day in and day out. Public safety, at its core, is no different: we all know plenty of people who are there and technically doing the job (following policies, documenting everything, and doing the basic requirements) but not much more than that.
What makes those who do our job with distinction different is the level to which they choose to rise above those minimum expectations, while still adhering to the rules which necessarily define our work. Sure, you can be okay or decent at this work, but being in the position that we are (defending the lives, freedom, and property of others) means, in my opinion, that you should seek to be more than just another body in a seat. So what goes into that effort? Let’s discuss.
Oh, the Humanity
The most important trait that anyone who aspires to be great at this work can possess is honesty – not just in the sense of telling the truth about a situation, but also in how we allow ourselves to handle those situations. In that sense, honesty means adhering to a basic humanity that approaches a situation from the perspective of being a person first, and an authority figure second… it’s impossible to escape the fact that we are human, and we shouldn’t try to shut that off due to a role that we play.
Evidence of this attitude comes from people who you probably respect on the job: the officer who is able to connect with someone to talk them down, the firefighter who reduces the fear of an entrapped MVC victim, and the EMS pro who takes the time to find out the entirety of a situation beyond just a chief complaint. There are a lot more examples than those, but at their core, all of those behaviors show a willingness to stay true to the common connection that we have with others beyond a superficial (aka Facebook-like) level. That honesty - adherence to our basic nature - shines through clearly to anyone who sees it.
Another quality which is up there is the ability to be reasonable. Again, this has a few meanings in the scope of our work – here, it means that you look at things objectively and fairly (aka with reason) regardless of what situation you’re presented with. It also means that you’re willing to change how you view or deal with something if the circumstances change while you’re dealing with it, however – to approach a call as an evolution rather than something which has to reach a given conclusion. None of this is to say that you need to change how something is done when it must be done for a reason, but rather that you remain open to information coming in from the outside, as well as your own take on things.
Reasonableness also extends to dealing with your coworkers, by the way – in this sense, that means having fair expectations of them, and not criticizing others for things that you yourself also do. Those who truly have the respect of their peers lead by example first, and words second (if at all.) Believe it or not, that includes taking the perspective of your bosses as best you can – realizing that criticism is often intended to help you improve, and even when it’s not meant that way, can in fact help you if you choose to see it as a lesson, even if that lesson is what not to do if you become a supervisor. Everything, positive or negative, has something to teach us if we let it.
Above all else, however, those of us who excel at our jobs take them seriously as an avocation and not just a profession. What that means is taking on the responsibility to know your job as thoroughly as you can from the empirical side – every class you take could be applicable to a real situation you encounter, in which the knowledge you obtained may make the difference between life and death or disability for someone else. (Well, maybe not that optional class titled “Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man MCI Response”). The people who recognize the value of that knowledge are the ones who realize that their own job satisfaction comes not from a boss, and certainly not from administration, but from their own joy in doing it and the satisfaction of knowing that they’re doing it to the best of their ability.
That, at its core, is the true honor that we earn for ourselves every day on the streets: the demonstration of competence, caring, dedication, and truthfulness in how we conduct ourselves, and the effects that doing all of those have in their wake – be it for the public or our coworkers. Getting a medal or a commendation should be seen as recognition for the job as it’s supposed to be done, not as the outlying example of above and beyond except when that is truly merited. We each get our own rewards every day when we do our jobs well, when knowing ourselves means that we recognize the differences we make even when others may not. Big or small, that’s why we’re out there, and the opportunities are there to do it on every call if we’re prepared to take advantage of them by preparing ourselves to do the truest form of our work.