20 Jan The Power of the Pause
It was a good Saturday morning so far. I was a fairly new Lieutenant Watch Commander, working weekend, dayshift. I just finished having breakfast with the sergeant at the local greasy spoon. A big fat breakfast burrito was sitting in my gut after being washed down by half a pot of coffee…and I was feeling pretty good.
As I sat down at the WC’s desk to start going through the pile of paperwork in the in-box, in walked one of our best and brightest young police officers.
“Good morning Lieutenant!” he beamed as he quickly walked over to the desk with a yellow sheet of paper in his hand…big smile on his handsome face.
“Morning Jeff” I bellowed back with an equally pleasant disposition.
He placed the yellow paper on the desk in front of me and I quickly recognized it as one of our Overtime Slips. This was the form officers would submit when they worked overtime, court time standby, callback, etc.
I quickly glanced over the form and noticed it was a request to be paid 13 hours of overtime for the week prior.
Knowing Jeff was away at a training class last week, I was a little puzzled at first. He must have noticed my smile quickly turned into a confusing glaze.
“I know what you’re thinking L.T.”
“Why am I putting in for O.T. when I was at a school? Well, as it turned out, they had us do some after-hours night shooting a few of the days. It was such an awesome class…thanks so much for authorizing me to go. Also, my wife loved the beaches and shopping in San Luis Obispo…it was kind of like a mini-vacation for us.”
I was literally speechless.
I could feel the stomach acid in my gut gurgling…not sure if it was the burrito bomb or a slow boil of anger starting to rise up.
Am I actually seeing and hearing what I think I am seeing and hearing? Did he just tell me that he wants to be paid “overtime” for a school he requested and that he and his wife attended in beautiful San Luis Obispo? Is he serious???
“uhhh ok Jeff…I will take care of this. Thanks.”
As he bounded out of the office, I sat there stunned at the nerve of this young man. How many times did we allow him to leave a few minutes early from a training day? How many times did we accommodate his requests to adjust his schedule for personal needs? Of course, I had no issue with those decisions…but now this?
Now he is going to “nickel and dime” the city for this “After hours” overtime at a school that was more like a vacation?
My instinct, my intuition, my gut was telling me to rip that yellow piece of paper to shreds, call him back into the office and “school” that young man on just how good he has it here at the PD and how most police departments would not even send their officers to this elite school and put them up in a nice hotel and…and… and…
Thankfully, something gave me pause.
What if he was right? What if he was entitled this overtime, regardless of how he got to the school or how nice it was or that his wife was there? What if?
That momentary pause was a blessing. It allowed me time to let the emotional response subside. It also allowed me time to call over to my buddy in Human Resources and run the scenario by him. Of course, it was quickly revealed to me the right thing to do…approve the OT slip!
Had I gone with my instinct, acted on emotions, made that decision on my “version” of fairness, it would have been a huge mistake. I would have denied this officer a paid benefit that he was perfectly entitled to. The end result could have been a formal grievance, a nasty letter from the police union and possibly a damaged relationship with that talented young officer.
I learned from that experience that when time is on your side in making decisions…use it! When you take that “tactical” pause, you give yourself time to evaluate alternatives, potential consequences, and most importantly, allow the initial emotions to subside to make the most rational and appropriate decisions.
Self-management is one of the four key Emotional Intelligence skills and the more you work on keeping your emotions in check, the better leader you are going to be!