Motivating Those Below You

July 28, 2017

Motivating Those Below You

by Ian D Scofield

When you are a corporal or above there are officers below you that rely on you for motivation and direction.  It is easy for officers to get stuck on the idea that all they need to do is the bare minimum needed to keep their job.  But increasing motivation will help to increase morale and public image for your department.  It will also help to raise job satisfaction. 

Other professions are no different from other professions, it is still a job and keeping motivation high is important.  The fact that most officers choose law enforcement for more than a job means that a lack of motivation can hit them harder than some other professions.

Let’s take a look at the different ways that you can motivate those under you. 

Build A Team

The first step to building motivation is to build a sense of team among your officers.  Team building activities are great for this.  All of the officers will build up a family atmosphere, more than before.  That sense of family helps to build the trust in a career field where officers put their lives in each other’s hands.  It also helps them to feel as if they belong in their department.

Praise As Earned

Praising officers below you can motivate them and make them feel like their work actually means something.  It doesn’t have to be a drawn-out show, just a good job.  However, if you praise too often, your praise won’t mean anything.  Watch those below you and when they do something that is above their everyday tasks let them know.

If an officer does something incredibly good, let them know in front of other officers.  This should be saved for major arrests or life-saving actions.

Provide Clear, Constructive Feedback

There is a popular phrase about praising and correcting, it goes “praise in public, criticize in private.”  This phrase is a very accurate description of how you should work with those under you.  Unless a mistake can be used as a positive learning experience for every officer under you, it should be discussed in private.

The term criticize is not an accurate description on how feedback should be given.  Mistakes can actually be turned into motivation.  When you give feedback to officers about mistakes they have made, make it corrective.  Give them tips on how they can improve and be sure to mention exactly how they messed up.  A hostile approach will not motivate your employees and can make them angry.

Empower Your Officers

Police officers have officer discretion when dealing with incidents.  Make sure that you let them know that you are letting them be on their own.  If you micromanage then they feel like that discretion is taken away from them.  Unless you have to, let them make their own decisions.  Let your officers know that they have the ability to handle calls on their own but they can ask for advice when they need it.

Another part of empowering your officers is to ask them for input on decisions.  While you may have a chain of command and the power to make decisions by yourself, it gives officers a sense of responsibility and motivation if they feel they have a say in where they work.  It gives them an extra stake.

Show That You Care

A leader is something more than a boss.  It is someone who invests their time in the officers below them.  Part of that means showing that you care.  A good example of this is to ask if an officer is feeling good if they appear under the weather.  The same goes for checking on officers who have been through a traumatic event. 

Don’t just ask casually either.  When you enquire into your team’s wellbeing, make it count.  Make it real.

Another aspect of showing that you care is to get to know your team.  Knowing every officers name is a start.  Try to also know a few facts about them such as hobbies.  That way you can ask them how their hobbies are going or how their families are.  It is a subtle way to show that you care and that you know them on an individual level.

Be An Advocate For Your Officers

Officers below you are your charges.  When they need something, you are the first person they go to.  Be their advocate and speak for them.  If they see that you are speaking for them and being their advocate, they will be motivated.  Knowing that superiors have their back, can be the biggest motivator in law enforcement.

Arrange Officer Appreciation Events

When members of the public show their appreciation for police officers it helps to counteract the heavy emphasis from the public that all police officers are corrupt.  Hearing from just a few citizens can be enough.  But arranging for officer appreciation events or similar activities allows for your officers to have a positive moment to interact with those they serve.

Whether you are corporal or a captain, motivating your team of officers is important.  It is what keeps them as effective as possible.  Even if you are just a seasoned officer, you can help to motivate your team.  Use these tips to get your team in the best spirits.  Stay safe out there!

About the author:

Ian graduated Seattle University with a Bachelor's in Criminal Justice with a Specialization in Administration of Justice. He has held positions as an Auxiliary Public Safety Officer, a Security Patrol Supervisor, and as an in-house security officer for a major medical center. Through all of this he has picked up a wealth of experience, training, and education that he is happy to pass on to others. Ian can be reached at

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