A few years ago, a good friend of mine had the scare of his life. His wife was diagnosed with a serious medical condition. At first he kept this to himself, because he did not want to bother anyone with his family problems. When he finally let his supervisor know what was happening, he was going to use FMLA so he could take care of his family. After being off for a few days, he was asked, “How long will you be off and what good can you do her being at home?” Needless to say, he felt like he was doing something wrong and none of his supervisors seemed to care about what he was going through.
We all hope that things like that don’t occur in these modern times. With all the talk about wellness and this new movement of taking care of the rank and file, things like that should never happen. But sometimes, the more things change, the more they stay the same. Fast-forward to the present day, and we have an officer who had to use FMLA for a condition he was being treated for by his doctor. The officer went on FMLA and did not receive a phone call from his chain. He was also made to feel like he was pulling a stunt or attempting to not work his assigned duties. The only call made was from the captain to the chief — no one except his union representative called him. In all fairness, he did receive a call from someone in command staff, after they were made aware.
I firmly believe that the intentions are good regarding our rank and file, but the message needs to be delivered at the captain level. I have seen captains who are fully involved when their officers are in a critical incident or are injured. I have run into captains on scenes checking on their people, and I have been told by officers how their captain went out of their way to make sure the officer was taken care of. But unfortunately, there are those who do not.
The great thing about this job is that I get the ear of a large group of officers, and they are always honest about how they feel about certain supervisors — I am speaking about the captain level. I can name a captain who the troops think the world of, not because the captain is easy on them or looks the other way, but because the captain genuinely cares. I can also name one who has been called narcissistic, a bully and a know-it-all who has never been wrong. Making bad decisions that affect others’ lives and careers should never happen at that level. I have worked on at least a thousand cases in my entire career as a representative and have had reasonable debates with a lot of captains, and sometimes they agree with me. But I have also dealt with individuals who have never been wrong or given an officer the benefit of the doubt.
Our rank and file need to believe that their commander has the best interest of the troops first, but with certain individuals it is not always the case. As a leader, if you have worked in a few assignments and no one can say anything positive about your time there, then maybe you are in this for the wrong reason. A wise man once said, “People don’t leave bad jobs, they leave bad bosses.”