So what next…
I worked on the project for a while whilst I licked my wounds and thought about my future. It was clear to me that I would have to leave the police. A lot of people advocated using my status to get into a more ‘back office’ role, where I would be more protected from operational policing, but I knew this wasn’t me. I need to be proud of what I do, I can’t hide for an easy life. Whatever I was going to do, I was going to do it to the best of my ability and I wanted to hold my head high.
The things that I knew about myself were that I really enjoyed leading people and I cared passionately for the staff that worked in the police. I had commissioned some work whilst I was a DI with an outside company to conduct some occupational psychological assessments on the sub division after the sudden loss of one of our Detective Sergeants. I was really interested in how team dynamics played out in supporting roles and creating a sense of ‘family’. This is one of the many ways that staff get through the daily business of being in the police, it is a powerful element of the organisation but one that is so undervalued and overlooked.
At the same time I became aware of a new initiative in the organisation: ‘well-being’. This was news to me, there was an element of the organisation that was also identifying the need to look closely into how we support our staff to get through their daily lives as officers. I made contact with the wellbeing team and learnt what they were doing and what they were trying to achieve. I told them my story and they listened with understanding – one was an organisational psychologist and the other a sports and wellbeing psychologist.
They both supported me and gave me complete insight into the work that they were doing and I began my own research, I looked at the pressure that officers were under with the reduction of staff, the increase in work load (intensification) and scrutiny and the greater exposure to trauma. I read all I could on wellbeing, the importance of leadership and support, autonomy in role and understanding of role. I learnt about mindfulness (and began to practice) and the different coping mechanisms that were available. At the same time I was exploring my own story with time in counselling and understanding how I had got to this point and location in my life.
I realised that the work that the wellbeing team were doing was invaluable if my colleagues were going to make it through the difficult times that they were experiencing, I also recognised that the service was due to experience another round of cuts – and that the wellbeing team and the work they were doing was vulnerable. Having a good understanding of the strategic running of the organisation I knew that this team needed, in some way, to prove the impact that they were having and how this was important to articulate to the organisation: they needed to articulate the return on investment. So I offered to work on an evaluation piece for wellbeing in the organisation. I exploited my learning from my MSc. study at Warwick and self-taught myself research methods, I wrote the methodology and rationale, spending hours after work researching current published writing; I immersed myself in the world of wellbeing and what it meant to not just the police but to any organisation and society as a whole. I quickly became passionate about looking at how we experienced our working lives, how our long hours cultures, our meeting to meeting lunches, our criticism of mistakes – our fear of ‘failure’ our lack of support and understanding, our intolerance of difference – our inflexibility and our inability to talk to each other was crippling our health, our mental health, our productivity, our creativity, our happiness, our ability to be present with our families both physically and mentally…our lives.
It was here that I realised what it was that I was going to do next.
If I couldn’t work as a police officer helping people, then I could work helping the people that do.
And so this is where you find me. I am now on a career break from the service, studying a MSc. in Human Resource Management at Manchester Metropolitan University. I am also conducting research into the wellbeing initiatives at Greater Manchester Police, collecting and collating longitudinal data into the work that is being done to support those on the front line. My intention is to take this into my dissertation, and hopefully a research PhD – to immerse my self in understanding what it is we need to do to support our emergency service workers..
This blog will detail my journey, my learning, experiences and discoveries.
Next week..Emotional Intelligence: restoring integrity through theoretical clarification a talk by the Association for Business Psychologists.