After the Webinar: Morale in Criminal Justice Agencies. Q&A with Dr. Obed Magny

Webinar presenter Dr. Obed Magny answered a number of your questions after his presentation, Morale in Criminal Justice Agencies. Here are just a few of his responses.


Audience Question: What does engagement really mean in a workplace sense? 

Obed Magny: Ah, I love this question, I love this question. Do you know why I love this question? I’m going to repeat a phrase by the great Dr. Cornel West. “You cannot lead the people unless you love the people.” In judgment, I want people to understand something because we have to get out of this cheap mentality in policing, okay? We have to get out of this mentality that everything is transactional. Everything is not transactional. It is okay to say, “Bro, I love you, man, I love you like a brother. I love the work that you do. I appreciate you.” That’s engagement. Engagement is I know you, not as a warm body or as a badge number, “I see you, I hear you, and I’m accountable to you.” Those are our three takeaways from that ———————. We don’t say that enough in policing. It is a culture of it’s not sexy to show that you have a soft side or anything like that. So, we have to suppress our feelings, because of what we see in the streets and what we deal with internally, how does that have a happy ending? It doesn’t. Tell me what works because I don’t know what else is working. So, when we talk about engagement, what engagement looks like is, when I’m talking to this person, what makes them tick? What sports do they like? Where does my family’s hang out at? Where do the kids go to school at? What do the kids love? So, when I’m coming in the office, I’m saying, you know, let’s assume that Christina and I are co-workers, “Hey how are the kids, did you just saw them get that golf —–? Did they go rowing?” That’s what engagement looks like. And it’s like, “Oh, this person is not just talking to me like I’m an other, this person has actually taken —– in me. That’s what engagement looks like. It is not transactional. It is transformative. That’s why we’re going to have church on August 10th on transformational leadership. And we’re going to talk about the research on that and what works, and how it works. We’re going to break it all down. I didn’t mean to get a long answer, but you cannot lead the people unless you love the people.


Audience Question: How can the officer have good morale when the department keeps changing the goals? 

Obed Magny: So that is another fantastic, great question. Actually, you already got the answers to the question in the previous slide. Officers are no longer waiting for their department to do anything for them. Some guys are getting up, they’re leaving this on their own businesses. Some guy who says, “You know what? Who else is hiring?” You’ve got billboards and showing up in other cities and I know Seattle’s not the only one. There are a ton of cities doing the poaching and all of that stuff. But if I’m an officer, or if you’re an officer, in today’s world, those officers are no longer doing the whole, okay I got to do by 30 years of hard work, labor, and get my pension and then once I got my pension I could retire. Today’s employees. Last week, I met up with an officer, this person only has a year and a half of this one department, and he was like, “Screw this place,” and he’s out in another state. —- Bye. At some point, you have to ask yourself, I want to move ahead. If you hire a coach, this is one of the benefits of coaching, right? Working in an organization where they’re not doing anything for you. You have to understand what is it that you want to do in moving forward. Because at the end of the day, the department is going to end up losing. Remember that picture I showed of Saul Goodman, attorneys are now looking I might have a little client here who’s being denied opportunities which led to his low morale, and ow he’s out on stress —– This is where it’s going. So, if an officer, you have to ask yourself. This is going back to that courage with the lion with the little chihuahua. Are you going to be a little chihuahua who will say, “Oh, woe is me. I don’t know.” No, you’re a human being, your mental health is important to you. Your organization is not doing what they need to do, but not holding up the end of the bargain. That’s their loss. You got to look at what you need to do to set yourself up for success. And having a coach will help you in getting you right.


Audience Question: What systems and processes are in place in agencies that help supervisors and managers, and executives stay engaged, that might be helpful for leaders to use to create guidelines for those opportunities?

Obed Magny: I’m going to go back to what I was saying about the. You can’t lead the people if you don’t love the people. Some organizations have nothing. This is one of the other issues on policing, right? So, some agencies have plans in place where if you want to promote, they have like a game plan that they help you work from the moment that you got the Academy going forward. Then you have other agencies that literally do nothing, and there’s no mandate that says they have to do anything, except give you a paycheck when you show up. So that’s, there’s an issue right there. And that’s going back to again, bring it up again with the slide with the Saint Louis Police Officers Association, where they surveyed the employees. Coaching and advancing are not a monolithic thing, it’s not a one-size-fits-all. Everyone’s going to have different motivations. So, when you start, this is going back to the first question. When you start treating people as individuals, when you start addressing them as individuals, when you start, “Hey, I know you want to go here, I’m going to help you get there.” Whether it’s formal or informal, the authenticity has to be there in the first place. The resources and time to make that happen have to be there. So, if you’re a captain or a deputy chief, your calendar is always full. So, those opportunities may not be there to mentor somebody else or anything like that. So, the short answer to that question is, it’s all over the place.


Audience Question: How can an individual change the morale of the department internally since the administration appears not to care about the employees’ morale? Can just a sole individual change morale of an agency as a whole? Or does that person need to be in a position of authority? 

Obed Magny: So, I wish you guys can see my face right now. I look like just Chester the Cheetah with a smile on my face. I’m going to give you an actual example. The American Society of Evidence-Based Policing was born because of a couple of individuals who said, “The way this is set up, it’s not conducive for my mental health,” so we want to make a change in policing using evidence and research, and so on and so forth. And we’re getting resistance left and right. When the organization says no, I have two options. I can sit there in my chair and (sobbing gesture), or I could go with the growth mindset of “Okay, this is clearly an obstacle, I’m going to divert, this is going to happen, and I’m going to choose these avenues.” Again, the American Study of Evidence-Based Policing organization in and of itself, was founded on the fact that traditional and status quo was not working. We have to find another way to make things happen. So, if you’re an individual, can you make a difference in your own organization? Absolutely. When I say absolutely, it depends on what kind of impact you want to make. Sometimes, you may have to leave your organization to have that impact. Meaning, I have seen people in one organization hit roadblock after roadblock after roadblock, leave that organization and go to another organization, ascend in that organization, and come back to the previous organization as a supervisor or as chief or deputy chief and they started making those real changes. Again, this is why I over-emphasize the points of this is what coaching is so important. You have somebody who can help you build that roadmap. It is not inconceivable that you have to lead your organization to come back at a later date and time to make that change. I’ve seen it happen. It’s happened many times. Let’s not get into the idea of, if I can’t do anything here, my life is ruined, or everything is over. It’s like, believe it or not, you might be given the opportunity that you even know about just yet.


Audience Question: So, kind of piggybacking on that, then it sounds like kind of what you’re saying is it really is the manager, it’s that first line supervisor who can really influence and make or break the morale of the subordinates. What should we be doing to support and help those front-line managers even more? 

Obed Magny: We should have the courage to say, we need the resources, we need the coaches. We need the training that we know works, the evidence-based training, that’s already out there. We’ve all heard the conversation defund the police. If we’re going to re-allocate resources, let’s make sure we prioritize where those resources go to. I just did a video on this last night on my Instagram. Study came out that the average police officer spends 20 hours in the people skills department, in a —— element. The message is, “Yeah, that’s not important to us.” Well, now, with these lawsuits being paid out left and right, you know, $27 million here, $87 million there, $10 million here, risk management side, people said, “Let’s get rid of qualified immunity because we’re not footing this bill anymore. So, there has to be a radical change and I’m talking radical with a capital R, radical thinking in the priority. So, if you’re a police chief, if you’re a deputy chief, if you’re in risk management, you need to start saying to yourself, “We need a significant part of our budget to divert so that we have those resources, so we can have those coaches to develop those frontline supervisors. That’s why we go back to the previous slide, where I put apparatus in big red bold letters. You can’t tell a supervisor, “Hey, go out there develop your employees,” and then, you overwhelm them with admin stuff, like, you’re not serious about this. That’s the message. So, that’s what needs to be done, it takes courage to step up and say, “We did have a talk with the city council, with the sheriff, or whatever jurisdiction.” And say, “This is an issue, it’s already a problem. The research already says it’s a problem.” We can just look at the TV, go on Twitter, or whatever if we know that’s a problem. And we’ve got attorneys that are already asking questions about, “Hey, are we doing what we’re supposed to be doing to take care of these guys or not?”


Audience Question: When is the documentary going to be out? 

Obed Magny: So, I’m crossing my fingers that it’s next month. But if you’re following me on any one of these social media platforms, when it’s out, you will know. And I’ll just say, we’re doing this in conjunction with the University of Cincinnati. So, there’s going to be a curriculum. This isn’t just a film just because, we just wanted to do a film. This is actually the beginning of addressing all these questions that you guys are asking, related to transformational leadership, engagement. You know, if I’m the sole person on the line officer in the organization, and I have no opportunities, no avenues for success, how do I make that work? How do I square that circle? All, that’s going to become it.


Click Here to Watch a Recording of Morale in Criminal Justice Agencies



Additional Resources
1 year ago
Understanding Compassion Fatigue for First Responders and Criminal Justice Professionals
Who helps the helpers when they’re the ones who need help? Work for those in the helping professio […]
2 years ago
Job Satisfaction: An Evidence-Based Approach to Improving Morale and Reducing Stress with the Employees in Your Organization
In a profession inundated with public criticism, it takes perseverance and internal factors to remai […]
2 years ago
Emphasizing EQ in your Organization Culture
Emotional Intelligence (EI) is about understanding and managing your emotions, along with the abilit […]
3 years ago
A Daily Drop of Corrosion: How the Daily Experiences in the Justice Professions Can Lead to Burnout
In 2018, CareerCast ranked policing as the fourth most stressful job in the US brought about by the […]