Law enforcement agencies across the U.S., including in Los Angeles, San Diego, Chicago and New York, are facing a severe shortage of recruits. As a result, current employees are needed to fill in the gaps by regularly working additional hours and back-to-back shifts, which can create and contribute to personal and work-related issues. Employees who are being asked to regularly work a certain amount of overtime may be susceptible to issues such as feeling less control over their work life and mounting fatigue due to getting less sleep and/or having their sleep patterns disrupted. Prolonged periods of overtime can result in an increase in:
• Error rates
• Conflict between team members
• Complaints about work
And a decrease in:
• A sense of personal control
It’s tempting to remind staff that because they’re working more, they’re also making significantly more money. The problem with this attempt to address staff complaints is that money is not a significant factor related to employee morale. This article will provide suggestions for management and staff in combating the potentially negative effects of working significant amounts of overtime.
WHAT MANAGEMENT CAN DO
• Employee morale is often positively affected by receiving encouragement and recognition from supervisors. It’s easy to see the errors, but make it a point to notice deputies doing things right and give this recognition to them in front of their peers, if possible. Conversely, give corrective feedback in private. According to research conducted by Emily Heaphy and consultant Marcial Losada, teams found to be most successful were the ones that received approximately six positive comments for every negative one. The lowest-performing teams received approximately three negative comments for every positive one. Positive feedback motivates people to continue doing what they’re doing well, improve in areas of challenge, and perform with more effort, enthusiasm and creativity.
• Avoid micromanaging. Micromanaging increases feelings of anxiety and resentment. Find less intrusive ways to keep your employees on track and accountable.
• Regularly make contact with your supervisees in a way that communicates that you’re interested in them and you care.
• And speaking of communication, keep your staff in the loop as much as possible. When employees are only given part of the story or explanation, they may fill in the blanks with their own bias, worry and concerns, and then the rumors start!
WHAT EMPLOYEES CAN DO
Working frequent overtime and double shifts can cause fatigue as well as disrupting the sleep/wake cycle, which could result in sleep problems, such as difficulty falling and/or staying asleep, or frequently waking up. Being chronically fatigued can create a snowball effect. As one becomes more exhausted, symptoms that feel like depression (e.g., lack of motivation regarding work and personal interests, fatigue, irritability, difficulty maintaining focus, and short-term memory problems) may appear, and these symptoms can potentially be detrimental to your mental and physical health, as well as your relationships. In addition, working regular overtime can reduce one’s sense of control over work life. The following are suggestions for coping with this challenging time:
• Stay focused on what you can control, which most likely is yourself.
° Self-care: Keep doing fun things off-duty even though you’re exhausted.
° Thought patterns: Stay positive, don’t take things personally, and think of what you’re grateful for.
° Constructive strategies for dealing with issues: Know your audience, manage your distressing feelings (relaxation/meditation, anger management techniques) and be strategic in your conflict resolution strategies.
• If it feels like you have less control at work, keep in mind all of the things over which you do have control, both at work and in your personal life.
If you are interested in a confidential consultation or a counseling appointment for assistance with this issue, contact Psychological Services Bureau (PSB) at (213) 738-3500.