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Home Team Resilience (Part 1): A Better Person, Officer and Leader
Tough, adaptable, resilient – how our Home Team Guardians are giving their best as COVID-19 operations evolve.

From coordinating our Whole-of-Government response and safeguarding our borders to supporting contact tracing efforts, developing COVID-19 test kits and providing security at designated dormitory facilities, Home Team officers have been at the forefront of fighting COVID-19. 

But as conditions on the ground enter a new phase, what does it take for us to maintain our focus, morale and effectiveness?  

That’s just one of the subjects that Dr Majeed Khader is intent on studying. As Chief Psychologist at the Ministry of Home Affairs and Director of the Home Team Behavioural Sciences Centre, Home Team Academy, Dr Majeed has devoted his career to developing the Home Team’s capabilities in areas such as leadership, resilience and profiling. We caught up with Dr Majeed to learn more about individual resilience, the “Code of Blue” and what leaders can do to maintain morale. 

Home Team News Home Team Resilience Part 1 01B
GRAPHIC: Home Team News

How are our Home Team officers on the frontlines faring in terms of their resilience and morale? 
Our officers are a very resilient group of professionals. Having been a psychologist in the Home Team for so many years, I can attest to how they’ve taken on many challenges, been through many operations, and how very resilient they are. Naturally, the new COVID-19 measures have required constant adaptation on their part. But what’s critical is their morale remains healthy. 

As we enter a new phase of COVID-19 operations, how can our frontline officers cope with challenges and maintain their focus and effectiveness on the job? 
The usual things that we all do – turn to friends, family members and especially colleagues. One of the things we always talk about in the Home Team is the “Code of Blue”, which is the camaraderie, friendship and support that comes with our work. It’s the tight-knit esprit de corps that we share with fellow officers.

Over the years, we’ve seen this very clearly in the Home Team, across many different operations. As psychologists, we call this social support. It has two parts – emotional social support and instrumental social support. 

Emotional social support refers to having somebody we can talk to, even grumble to, when we’ve had a hard day. It’s about engaging with someone who understands what we’re going through. 

Instrumental social support refers to having the ability and technical resources to solve our challenges. It’s about knowing what we can do when we encounter a problem on the job, where we can get guidance or advice, and who we can count on to help us. 

Put emotional and instrumental social support together, and these help our officers cope and work better.

As the situation evolves and we manage COVID-19 for the long haul, how can we maintain our sense of mission and not feel discouraged? 
I think it happens on two levels. At an individual level, we need to come to terms with, as you said, this being something we have to face for the long haul. We need to accept that, at least for the foreseeable future, this is a challenge we have to cope with. 

So it’s about reframing our perspective: Yes, this is going to be for the long haul, and we have to learn how to adjust to the new normal. Because life must carry on and we have to find new ways of doing our work. We have to continue doing what we’re doing, but in a more responsive, resourceful and adaptable manner. 

We’re already picking up new ways to work, using video conferencing, all sorts of new apps to communicate, so it doesn’t have to be face-to-face. We’ve found ways to adapt to the current situation, on an individual level. 

Home Team News Home Team Resilience Part 1 02
Playing our part: Home Team officers have stepped forward to support the national response to COVID-19 by ensuring that comprehensive measures are in place to safeguard safety, security and public health. PHOTOS: Home Team News

At the leadership and supervisory level, we need to understand that this process can be very tiring, and that our officers can experience burnout. This is why we need to uphold our morale sensing and team management. 

Our Home Team management is very good in that after they know what the morale issues are, they immediately address them. It could be very small, not very significant, but it is still addressed. Like just acknowledging the contributions of our officers, or thanking them for what they’ve done. These little things go a long way in terms of maintaining morale.

From your experience, what are the qualities that our officers have that help them continue in their missions, despite challenges? 
I recall a Police officer who once said to me, “I patrol in the night so that others can sleep well.” This sense of mission helps our officers deal with difficulties. It’s the sense that no matter how tough things get, what we do is meaningful and helps others. 

The Home Team is about responding to and managing incidents and crises. The experiences our officers have on a day-to-day basis, in their operational capacities – these have prepared them for something like COVID-19, which requires a coordinated, nationwide response. They’re tough; they’re adaptable; they’re resilient.

In psychology, this is sometimes referred to as positive reframing. Say you’ve had a difficult day at work. You can either say, “This was a big challenge for me,” or you can tell yourself, “I learnt something from this. Let me see how it makes me a better person, a better officer, a better leader.” 

These are the very things that help our officers carry on. And we can get through this together. 

Dr Majeed Khader is Chief Psychologist at the Ministry of Home Affairs and Director of the Home Team Behavioural Sciences Centre, Home Team Academy. Over the course of his career, Dr Majeed has overseen the development of psychological services for the Home Team, building up our capabilities in the areas of leadership, resilience, profiling, counselling, crisis negotiations, crisis psychology, stress management and personnel selection. In 2014, Dr Majeed received the Public Administration Medal (Silver) for his contributions to the Home Team.

Read Home Team Resilience (Part 2): Our Sense of Mission.
© 2019 Ministry of Home Affairs, Singapore. All Rights Reserved.

  1. by Rachel Sin and Desmond Ang
  2. 14 May 2020
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