Exclusive: Managing the psyche of your security team

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Frontline security management in the private security sector encompasses many emotions during the course of duty. Security managers and supervisors are not only a pipeline to client(s) but also instinctively are sought out in times of major incidents or crisis. Security management and their teams have to know how to deescalate a situation concerning areas of irritability and panic. Interestingly, there is a psychological element that many security managers and supervisors have to address, which the aforementioned rarely discusses with peers; the psyches of their security teams. Security managers and supervisors train their teams to be prepared for safety and security concerns and mitigation techniques; however, the level of skill in private security managers and supervisors to handle the stress of acting as mini-psychologists in the melting pot of private security officers is debatable. Moreover, there are three variables, which attribute to this paradox:

  • Less than ideal pay wages.
  • Job only mentality
  • Post-traumatic job stress.

From the start, it is critical that security managers and supervisors identify which of the aforementioned three variables exists in their security team. Once identified, an observation can be made internally as well as tools used when counseling or disciplining the employee (when applicable).

Less than ideal pay wages

Although an upward trend as far as contracts and jobs; a majority of security officers are not coming into the positions with a high hourly wage. Depending on the scope of work or site(s), a good portion of security officers are not making enough to warrant one source of income and are forced to live pay cheque to pay cheque. Many believe that contract security companies are responsible for these poor wages; however, on the contrary, wages are decided more with the clientele.

Job only mentality

The private security position is at the mercy of its stereotype. The term, “guard,” has caused more subconscious damage to the private security field than low paying wages. If you survey at least ten security officers, regardless of assignment, he/she/they will tell you that the public and even some clients will see them as a revolving door. Poor eye contact and lack of acknowledgement toward private security officers is a catalyst for the deterioration of dignity. Seasoned security officers have sadly more than one encounter with the public or those tasked to be protected, which brings the mentality as more of a, “job only,” mindset, rather than a, “career focused,” one.

Post traumatic job stress

Private security officers are rarely dedicated to one account or site(s). Security officers can be transferred, removed, or transferred because of loss of account or site(s). With this continual rotation of exposure to different co-workers, management, supervision and clientele, officers are bound to have less than favourable stories of a negative interaction with the aforementioned individual(s).

With the three igniters to the private security psyches identified, the following are the most prevalent security officer(s) psyches encountered by private security management and supervision:

  • The former authority (i.e. – former law enforcement, military and management/supervision).
  • Lack of work ethic or responsibility.
  • The mercenary concept.

The former authority

Involves someone who has previous experience in the field either through another security, law enforcement, or military organisation; however, is not accustomed to:

  1. The transition from public service to private service.
  2. Working his or her way back up the ladder in a new organisation.
  3. Taking mandates and instructions from someone junior to him or her.

Lack of work ethic or responsibility

Many private security officers, especially in the US, are young university students looking to:

  1. Earn money for study materials.
  2. Pay off rent and other bills.
  3. Due to word of mouth and other friends and acquaintances in the field, were advised to work in the private security field because it has a lot of down time and a lot of, “easy lifting.”

The mercenary concept

This equates to the mentality of, “working for the highest bidder.” Although more prominent with private security officers, this unfortunately, has also creeped its way into the psychological makeup of some supervisors. Managers are often faced with this issue including:

  1. The employees’ research and word of mouth from other friends and acquaintances that work in the private security sector, as well as the hourly wage earned.
  2. Duties and responsibilities by clientele that, “Deserves a higher wage for all that I/we do.”
  3. Challenging supervision or management with possibility of resignation to join a new private security company.

No matter what psyche that a private security manager or supervisor faces, maintaining one’s composure during a less-than favourable encounter will set the stage for respect and mutual understanding. Even though it would be ideal to have a playbook for each mentality faced by private security management, such a playbook cannot exist due to the sheer immensity one finds when managing or supervising individuals. If there is one thing to learn from the melting pot of psyches, it is that people want to be heard and understood. Pride and trying to lead with an “iron fist” is outdated and does not impress. Lead with compassion and understanding. 

Matthew Porcelli, CPP

By Matthew Porcelli, CPP

You can connect with Matthew on LinkedIn here

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