Cops, Cash and Stress

August 10, 2011

Ethics, Personal Excellence

If you follow the markets at all you know that Monday was a historically bad day.  There are a ton of lessons to take away from the day including  some horrific examples of leadership and effective communication.  More important is the effect that a day like this can have on us personally and the potential stress a day like this can inflict.  Cops deal with enough stress in their lives without unnecessarily burdening themselves with cash concerns.  Our financial health can be tied directly to our emotional and physical health and we should pay attention to it accordingly.

Managing the Economic Environment

As with many things in our lives, we need to understand what it is that we control.  One of the advantages of civil service employment historically has been the relatively high degree of job security.  This has become less certain in today’s economic environment because municipalities have counted on funding sources (State and Federal) that they don’t control and have no plan for replacing when the money dries up – no plan beyond laying off junior personnel.  This drama repeats at the State and Federal level where debt and borrowing have grown to the breaking point and funding to operate and pay back debt is scarce.  The unfortunate reality is that many of our personal financial situations aren’t much better and a day like Monday can stress us to breaking.

We all know the cops who work a tremendous amount of overtime and whose budget has grown to include what they anticipate earning on top of their regular salary.  In my old Department I could count on the annual angry response of the Mayor when he discovered how many cops made more than he did.  Of course they also made more than I did but I’m not sure that he was as angry about that :).  And that’s okay up to the point that the cops start counting on that money to survive.  The mansion and the luxury ride are merely sources of stress when there isn’t enough cash to buy Ramen at the end of the month.  Getting the overtime is beyond our control so it shouldn’t be relied on.

Proactively Dealing with Stress

The nature of the job brings its own stress along for the ride.  This has three implications for cops.  The first is that spending is a common response to stress.  This can become a downward spiral because the debt that often results from this spending just exacerbates the problem.  Stress spending might not be as visible to a boss as an officer’s drinking problem but should be handled with the same concern if warning signs start to show.  If an officer is getting calls from creditors at work it might be time for an intervention.

Secondly we know that too much stress impairs performance.  If an officer faces a stressful call while mentally distracted or fatigued because of financial problems they might get themselves or someone else hurt.  We have to be focused on limiting distractions if we are to be safe and we need to do what we can to help others maintain their focus.

The third issue that financial stress creates is the increased risk of ethical violations.  When people find themselves in a hole and under great stress they sometimes do things they would never do under normal circumstances.  Bosses have as great an obligation to protect their folks from ethical dangers as they do physical ones.  Whenever an officer fails to achieve their career goals because of ethical failures it is likely that some boss or the organization contributed in some way.

What to Do

I am certainly not a financial expert and don’t give financial advice.  I had stress in my career but thankfully it wasn’t financial because I lived within my means and dealt with debt aggressively.  Dave Ramsey is a noted financial adviser who suggests dealing with our finances in the same way.  You can get great advice from him at: – Get REAL debt help: Dave Ramsey’s Total Money Makeover Plan
  In the interest of full disclosure Dave is not an affiliate of Guardian Leadership.

I have included Dave’s site in my recommended resources as well.  Please don’t let money become an unnecessary source of stress in your life.

As always, THANK YOU for your service and BE SAFE !

Please share any other thoughts you might have regarding dealing with financial stress.



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