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“Us Versus Them” Inside One Organization

Mediocrity is the best result a divided team can achieve.

“The dispatchers don’t know what the hell they are doing!” “Patrol treats us like we are secondary citizens.” “The sales guys promise things that can’t be done.” “Operations’ favorite thing to say is ‘We can’t do that.’”

In law enforcement, the divide happens in “dispatch versus patrol.” In businesses, the divide happens in “sales versus operations.” Universally, the divide happens in “headquarters versus everyone else.”

How can a divided organization ever expect consistent success or engaged teammates? About the best an organization will get is mediocrity and upset individuals. The “us versus them” mentality is rooted in misunderstanding along with the unwillingness of people to try to understand.

Since 2017, I have worked with dozens of law enforcement agencies and hundreds of law enforcement professionals. These professionals do not all carry a badge and firearm. At least twenty-five percent of the attendees to our Officers of Character seminars are civilian-support personnel who work in dispatch, records or other essential areas. They are vital to the function of their agencies. But, those agencies are a great example of the disconnect which hampers many organizations.

Our Officers of Character classes combine civilians with patrol supervisors, criminal investigators (CID), jail personnel and other sworn peace officers. Those officers are the ones who put their lives on the line every day for people in our communities.

Sitting in the headquarters at the dispatcher’s station is a very different role than patrolling the streets. But there is stress in both jobs. In each role, policies and procedures must be followed. Mistakes in either role add elements of not only stress—but danger. When the two groups are not in sync with each other, misunderstandings could put someone in a life-threatening situation.

In our workshops, such misunderstandings are often a topic of conversation. Sometimes it is the first time a civilian supervisor is in a training situation with their counterparts in the patrol division. This is a great opportunity for both sides to discuss the root cause of these misunderstandings. My challenge to them is to go spend time sitting in the other person’s chair.

For patrol – I encourage them to spend time with dispatchers—to understand the stress of juggling inbound calls and also communicating details accurately to the officers on duty.

For dispatch – I encourage them to ride along and witness what happens in the field with the officers they support.

The pushback I hear—always comes down to a lack of time. I acknowledge this does take time. But, I always encourage groups to think about the time which is lost due to consistent miscommunication, correcting mistakes and infighting. How much time could be spared if people invested time upfront to understanding the roles and the challenges of the people they work beside every day?

Wherever we work, the “us versus them” mentality roots in a selfish cycle on both sides. Nobody wants to dedicate the time to understand the other side’s situation. Instead, it is easier to get entrenched in our own perceptions. Therefore, the divide gets wider.

The challenge for all of us is to exercise Selflessness. What could be possible if we would work to understand what is actually going on within the other team? Just like the individuals in our workshops, I would encourage you to spend time with other departments and ask a lot of questions. Ask how your role creates extra work for them. Problem solve together to discover efficiencies. Open a dialogue. By taking time to understand each other, divided teams can start working together towards solutions which will eliminate an “us versus them” mentality and find a rhythm which brings success.

Dig Deep Questions:

  • Where does the “us versus them” mentality occur where you work?

  • When was the last time you experienced the ins and outs of someone else’s job?


Taking responsibility and exercising Selflessness is a lifelong journey for not only you, but your team. We want to partner with you as you make Selflessness part of your organizational culture. When it comes to remembering the definition of Selflessness, let us help to make it easy to keep it visible.

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