Blue Line

Management and GenX

September 20, 2011  By Terry Graden

Having read few articles that address the values, norms and beliefs of Generation X and Millenial police officers, the time has come to speak to a managing paradigm shift that must occur within police agencies that wish to lead within the law enforcement community.

A partnership between managers and their employees may never have been so important in recent history than in today’s economic conditions. Police agencies can no longer afford to allow employment conditions account for their corporate retention strategies; it is now critical that they view their officers as essential to the success of the organization’s strategic goals and objectives. Affording officers a sense of autonomy in their positions may just lead the organization to meeting, or exceeding, its strategic goals.

Expressing corporate values to officers requires more than the traditional clichés confirmed throughout the appraisal periods, it requires an honest belief in the purported organizational values by the organization and manager who in turn shares them, on a regular basis, with the officers. For managers who honestly put the effort into improving the workplace, they should create an atmosphere that is built upon both a genuine and collective value system that speaks to the organizational culture and exemplified throughout the organization. 
As the workforce is transitioning into the values and beliefs held by Generation X and now the Millenials, managers must be in tune to what its officers see as critical to both loyalty and retention programs. Arguably, protean career seekers wish to take their careers into their own hands through developmental and organizational opportunities, and with some level of assistance from their immediate supervisor. This in itself may provide the foundation for psychological success as opposed to the traditional hierarchal approach of assumed success. 

Engaging and motivating both Gen X and Millenial officers requires real opportunities for internal movement, and employees like to work for an organization whose supervisors partner with them to build these opportunities. Supervisors can aid in attaining both intrinsic and extrinsic rewards through their leadership qualities that are viewed as critical to organizational values, but more importantly to Gen X and Millenial officers who view these qualities as pleasing for psychological success.


What is important to note is that Gen X possess differing values than the Boomers and the Millenials subsequently differ from Gen X. Rodriguez, Green & Ree (2003) report that Gen X value a challenging task that can be accomplished within the work day, flexible work hours, job sharing and meaningful work, which subsequently leads to a shift within the current police leadership and management paradigms. “Some managers not only resist change, they refuse to address any alteration in their techniques. Rather than even attempt a modification to their management approach, they are locked into their old habits and methods. Their approach may have worked with some consistency in the past; however, these managers are usually so far into their comfort zone that they don’t realize they’re losing an opportunity for real leadership” (McDevitt, 1999). 

McAuliffe (2007) suggests that if one wishes to become a better leader, the first step involves self-reflection and a long and hard look in the mirror. Asking yourself whether you are trusted, whether you treat people as you wish to be treated and whether you are truly a good listener, are questions that will elicit answers of whether one is truly capable of a leadership or management role. Moments of self-reflection may provide one with the opportunity for growth both in the workplace and at home. Asking for feedback from your peers can also provide one with a tremendous opportunity for self-improvement – it’s not a sign of perceived weakness. Remember, the values, norm and beliefs differ significantly within each generation.

Wright (2009) points out that the term “leadership” has become such a cliché, it has nearly lost all meaning. The word has almost become synonymous with “executive” and “management” as organizations have built it into job titles. However, leadership is not a title or job – it is an act. Leadership and management entails supporting and working for those who are considered to be your organizations best assets – the officers who are in the public eye on a daily basis.


McAuliffe, M. O. (2007, June). Want to be a better leader? Look in the mirror. FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin, 76 (6), 8. Retrieved April 16, 2011, from
McDevitt, D. (1999, July). Ineffective management strategies: And why managers use them. Law & Order, 47 (7), 143, 4 pgs. Retrieved April 14, 2011, from
Rodriquez, R. O., Green, M. T., & Ree, M. J. (2003, Spring). Leading Generation X: Do the old rules apply?. Journal of Leadership & Organizational Studies, 9 (4), 67. Retrieved April 15, 2011, from
Wright, D. (2009, July). People need leadership, not management. Security Technology Executive, 19 (7), 16. Retrieved April 15, 2011, from

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Terry Graden has been a police officer for the past 22 years in Calgary , AB.  He is currently assigned to the Professional Standards Section for the past five years. Terry has a BA in Criminal Justice and an MA in Organizational Management.  He may be contacted by email to

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