Wednesday, November 15, 2006

"It's a Hard Thing to Say..."

When your partner is screwing up, how do you tell your supervisor?

M had that problem yesterday and I was his supervisor. Luck, and the fact that everything I needed to see was right in front of my face, saved him from having to find the words.

"I'll talk to him."

Then talking to him. The partner knew right away it could be bad: he pre-empted any scolding, confessed to everything, made his excuses.

Aside: this wasn't some big cover-up or crime or evil-doing. The partner just wasn't doing his job. Distracted by problems at home, he was leaving his partner to carry the weight.

Partners in high risk professions are a special thing. I've written about it before- race, religion, background, politics all mean nothing next to the simple fact of trust. I trust this person to cover my back. I trust him to pull my stupid ass out of there when and if I make the Big Mistake. It can grow and spread, this trust- I trust my regular partners to cover my play. I trust them not to get me killed by being stupid (making mistakes happens. Being stupid is confusing your ego with the job).

A very few presume on this and take it too far. The worst expect their partners to actually switch sides and cover up criminal activity. This rarely flies- I'm thinking cops here- all but the most naive, inexperienced or willfully stupid have watched criminals for a long time and know how criminals act and think and recognize it quickly when their partner starts making excuses or rationalizations like a criminal does. If the communication is good, it ends right there. If the communication is poor it eventually gets kicked up to a supervisor or Internal Affairs.

More basic and more common is just simple slacking, leaving your partner to do your work.

Home is important. Every supervisor I've ever respected has made a point of telling the deputies that home is more important than work. Yet problems at home shouldn't bleed over into work. When you are at home, you need to be at home. When you are at work, you need to be at work. Because you need your full attention with this job, and half-assed commitment leads to half-assed decisions which leads to costly mistakes... and you can't take care of problems at home if you don't make it home.

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