The Soul of the Security Officer: Recruiting Staff Who Will Stay

Here’s why you should weigh the hidden ambitions and drives that motivate the hopeful candidate sitting across the interviewing table and how Jungian archetypes can help you make better hiring decisions.

What separates the Protector from military and law enforcement profiles are subtle points that can be taught to those who enter the security industry after many years of service in these noble professions.  However, those with military and law enforcement profiles come with a different “dark side” than the Protector, which we’ll discuss later in this piece.

According to the research, there’s more to being a Protector than being born into the role with the traits listed above. There are other aspects that further define high-caliber security talent that you should spend heavily to attract to your campus and fight to retain. The researchers found there are four sub-groups within the Protector that describe the die-hard security officer and can be taught to professionals with other profiles. (See 4 Personality Traits of Successful Security Officers.)

If you see yourself described in these traits, congratulations on being among ”the chosen” for the security profession. For the former military and law enforcement professionals who feel they’ve been jilted, there’s a good explanation why Protector “civilians” are better suited to the security role. Your previous occupation made you too good in two areas: vigilance, and your understanding of rules of engagement (ROE). At least you’re not the paycheck- grabbing wanna-be.

Military and Law Enforcement Must Adjust to a New Life
The key advantage a Protector has over military and law enforcement employment candidates is that they have always been trained on techniques and rules that were designed to fit the mission of protecting people and assets for corporate clients, including campus safety.  Conversely, the vigilance taught within the military ranks is an essential survival attribute that can lead to PTSD if not kept in moderation. It would seem that hyper-vigilance would be a positive attribute to a security professional, but the reality is that it is a symptom of an ailment that affects too many of our nation’s good men and women of the military who served in Afghanistan and other hostile places. It cannot be sustained in a campus environment and has no place in the sphere of campus safety, even though it probably kept you alive long enough to read this article.

For those unfamiliar with the term, Rules of Engagement (ROE) are the guidelines and directives that define what conduct military or law enforcement personnel are authorized to perform in the execution of their duties. For example, a law enforcement officer may be authorized to disperse a crowd of protesters who have grown too aggressive by using area weapons (tear gas canisters) and high velocity non-lethal projectiles such as bean bag rounds fired from a shotgun. The ROE governing the officer’s conduct likely state that the crowd is to be dispersed in a manner that allows everyone to go home that night… even the protestors.  This is close to the defensive mission of
the security role, except that a campus organization likely would not allow the tactical action of taking the first step of active engagement.

These types of engagements help prepare military and law enforcement for the restrained role that the majority of security professionals engage in. However, many former military and law enforcement personnel have lived with the prospect of having to respond with lethal force (or the threat of having to go there) often enough that down-shifting to a traditional security role can be a challenge. This is often seen in the security profession when armed officers suggest that a firearm is all they need. Really? Does your employer feel the same way? In either case, keep that a secret from your liability insurer.

The Dark Side of the Protector
While the research conducted on the industry identified several personas among security professionals, there was an interesting finding: a Protector shares similar “dark side” traits also with a small number of military and law enforcement personnel.  In Jungian terms, the shadow is an archetype that often represents this dark side – aspects of the self that exist but which one does not acknowledge or identify with. This alternate personality can emerge when a security officer taps into a situation or scenario that is similar to a bad relationship they had with an authority figure in their early years. Often the relationship in question was with their father or someone who filled that role. Rather than acting this out in a healthy manner, the person becomes the violator of policy, rules or protocols in an effort to punish someone who “got away with it,” or almost did.

These same personality types have a tendency towards arrogance in the performance of their duties or in their dealings with the public. They must always have an enemy, someone to protect the innocent against, and consequently they often find one. Their biggest fear is appearing weak. The weakness of Jung’s ”hero” archetype is also arrogance and always needing another battle to fight. 

We all have these alter-egos of vulnerability. The question in a hiring scenario is whether we can accurately test for a person’s ability to keep these negative attributes in check.

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