How Do You Handle Change? - Leadership -

How Do You Handle Change?

As an LE professional, we have to always be prepared for the next call, the next adventure

Cindra Dunaway | Tuesday, December 4, 2012

My center is going through some major changes right now. Our director retired after 35 years of dedicated service to our department. As with most departments, changes this big don’t happen very often. Once a manager or director is in place, unless they make a major life change or major mistake, they stay in their position until retirement. So you can imagine the anticipation and speculation that’s going on right now. Unfortunately, this is also an election year and our sheriff has decided to wait until afterward to make any promotions. So until then, everyone has their own opinions about what’s going to happen.  
It’s funny how change affects some people. Some fight it all the way—they’re perfectly content to continue the way they have always done business. While others, like me, wish the outgoing folks a wonderful retirement they certainly deserve, and look forward to change. It’s a time to look forward to new philosophies and fresh ideas.
My husband and children think I’m nuts—I’m always changing things at home. My middle child dreads it when he sees me moving even the smallest of household furnishings as he knows it will end up in me rearranging the entire living room. He also knows it won’t end there because, of course, if you change the living or family room, you must rearrange the dining room and kitchen counter tops as well! “Mom! I hate change! I just got used to the way you had it.” I guess they come by it naturally; their father is a one-lane kind of guy. He hates it when I tell him I have a hair appointment. “You aren’t going to change it again are you?” he sighs.
Change can be good, but I’ve worked with some people who let change get the best of them and ruin a perfectly good day, week or even month. The panic usually starts after we get a memo outlining a new policy or procedure.
But I’m willing to bet my last paycheck that administration has other things that they would rather be doing than thinking up ways to make changes to policy. There’s usually always a reason behind their decisions. Example: Maybe an incident occurred that could have been handled better encouraged a policy change. Or something further up the chain of command has changed causing a standard operating procedure to be rewritten. Perhaps a lawsuit with your department or another’s has initiated an adjustment in how we should do business on a daily basis. Or maybe a new law or legislation has been put in place that causes us to change the way we operate in order to comply with local, state or national mandates.
Whatever the reason, I would like to think that our administration or command staff has the best interests of the department or division in mind when changes take place. I encourage supervisors and administration to share these reasons if possible. You know us adults—we don’t like the “Because-I-said-so!” routine. We need to know that our requests are being considered or at least a time frame for an answer is always appreciated.
I know I’ve said it a thousand times, but as much as people probably get tired of me repeating myself: Our core responsibility is to the public. That’s why our field is called public safety! As much as we worry about our own problems and difficulties, we have to remember that our jobs are to serve the public. I know that some of you don’t have great benefits and/or salaries. I for one think that we can’t be paid enough for what we do every day. The stress alone would crush the normal citizen, not to mention our brothers and sisters in the field that have to worry about their personal safety every second that they’re in their uniforms. But unfortunately, that comes with the profession we have chosen. But only a public safety professional can know what it’s like to save a life, be there for someone who needs you more than anyone else in the whole world, to put the bad guy away, or to find a lost child. The triumphs we experience far outweigh our everyday worries and put things into perspective.
The world is changing so fast these days, and like the leaves changing colors and falling from the trees, getting ready for a new season, we have to always prepare for the next call, the next adventure. Whether it’s new technology, policies or personnel, we have to learn to adapt to the changes around us. That’s what makes us remarkable. The ability to evolve and move forward in our careers is what we should be concentrating on. Look or volunteer for training opportunities, offer suggestions to make your working environment better. And don’t be discouraged if the answer is no the first time. There may be reasons that you aren’t aware of that are keeping administration from granting your requests.
But there are things that you can do until the time is right. Keep a positive attitude even when times are tough for you. It won’t stay that way for long. Change is always just around the corner. I know that sounds too good to be true, but just remember life changes, people change, and work will change. Try to look for the good in the changes around you. One day you’ll look back on your career, and like a co-worker once told me: “That tough time is just a blimp on your career timeline.”
Stay safe, my family.

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Cindra DunawayCindra Dunaway is a 9-1-1 dispatcher for the Lee County (Fla.) Sheriff’s Office. Contact her via e-mail at


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