Practical Support for the Changing World at Work 
Linda F. Willing
P.O. Box 148
Grand Lake, CO
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Consider This...  February/March 2001 Issue Number 20

Is a monthly electronic newsletter which links current events and issues to the daily challenges faced by fire and emergency services managers. Current topics in the area of sexual harassment, diversity management and conflict resolution will be discussed.

We hope that you find the information here useful and provocative.
Let us know what you think!

Upcoming Events

International Conference of Women in Firefighting, March 13-18, 2001 Cobb County, GA. Contact Women in the Fire Service at for more information.

Leading Diverse Communities Beyond Conflict, March 30-31, 2001, Orem, Utah. National Fire Academy field delivery course.

You Can Ace the Assessment Center! Intensive 2 day assessment center preparation course, offered twice during the week of April 23-26, 2001. Location TBA in the Denver metro area. Call 970-627-3732 or email for details.

National Center for Women in Policing, Sixth Annual Conference, April 4-8, 2001, Palm Springs, CA. Call 323-651-2532 for more information.

"Can Sensitivity Be Taught? Rethinking Diversity Training" April 30- May 6, 2001, Sacramento, CA. This workshop will be presented during the FDIC West Conference. For registration information, call 888-299-8016.


In the News

The Generation Gap

As I travel around the country talking with managers in fire and emergency services, I am often approached privately to discuss a specific situation on a department. In the past, these discussions were usually about gender or race. But more and more, I am hearing from leaders that they don't know how to effectively manage the newer, younger people in their organizations. "They're not like us," they tell me. "They don't have the same work ethic. They don't respect tradition."

Differences between generations go back to the beginning of time, and certainly those of us who are among the baby-boom generation drove our parents and employers crazy at times. Still, some of the trends among younger employees have presented big challenges to those who manage them.

Here are some trends to keep in mind when managing young workers in your organization:

  • Young people have grown up within the most prosperous American economy in over 50 years. Unemployment nationally has been at about 4% for years, and in some places it is much lower.

    The result? Young people have an inbred belief that they can always find another job, and tend to be less loyal to their employers when work is not satisfying.

  • The average number of career level jobs held by an individual in his or her working life is now over five, and that number is rising. This average takes into account those people, like most firefighters, who keep one job for an entire career. In the high-tech world, workers change jobs on the average of every two years, and those who don't move are often seen as dead wood.

    The result? There is less stigma or fear in young people about changing jobs or careers several times in their lives. Indeed, many young people accept a job expecting that they will be leaving it at some point for a better position.

  • Young people are tech-savvy. They have grown up with computers, cell phones, pagers, and high speed Internet connections. They have no fear of new technology and little respect for those who resist this type of change.

    The result? Younger employees bring valuable skills and a willingness to adapt to changing systems and technologies. However, this inbred "need for speed" that has come from living in a computerized world also makes them impatient for results and wanting instant gratification for their efforts.

  • Young people have grown up in a world that includes wide diversity of culture, race, gender and personal style. They expect to see women and men of different races and ethnic backgrounds in the workplace.

    The result? Younger people tend to be less resistant to working for supervisors who are women or minorities. However, it is important to note that young people who actively reject the increasingly diversified workplace do so from conscious choice. They may be harder to manage than older people who simply feel uncomfortable with those who are different due to lack of contact.

  • Young people are confident and ambitious. They have high expectations for material success in their lives. Sure, there are slackers in every generation. But it is the younger generation that has pioneered the newest 70 hour work-week, and developed multi-million dollar businesses from their basements. Due to extensive media exposure, young people know what the good life looks like, and they want it for themselves, and as soon as possible.

    The result? Young people work very hard when they are motivated. What motivates them most is the prospect of living a good life. However, when that motivation decreases, younger people are much more likely than their older counterparts to move on.

  • Young men and women have the expectation of enjoying both career and family life. Young men expect to be involved to a much greater degree with their children than were fathers of 20 or 30 years ago. Young women expect to be able to have fulfilling careers, and be able to have children.

    The result? Employers must continually look at ways of adapting and upgrading benefits for those who are working parents. Employers will also find themselves taking a back seat to family concerns at times, and this will be true for both male and female employees.

These are just a few of the obvious changes faced by those who are not only managing young employees, but also preparing them for taking on leadership roles. What kind of leaders will these people be? This will be discussed in next month's newsletter.

Source: Entrepreneur November 1999, and many others.

News Brief

Nearly a quarter of all companies in the United States now offer benefits for domestic partners. A third of the companies not currently offering such benefits are considering them. Benefits usually include medical and dental insurance, but may also include disability insurance or other benefits. In some cases, domestic partner benefits are available only to those who are in gay or lesbian relationships, (the rationale being that heterosexual couples have the option of marrying and getting benefits in that way.) However, many large companies, including Costco and Ford, offer benefits for any type of domestic partnership.

Source: Wall Street Journal, December 17. 2000

Sexual Harassment Update

Know the Law!

A complicated claim of discrimination and retaliation has resulted in the award of $50,000 plus attorney's fees to the deputy director of the Colorado EEOC office. Carlos Villescas had sued the government for retaliation after he testified on behalf of another government employee who felt he had been passed over for promotion because of age and gender.

An interesting twist to this case was the fact that a little-known clause in federal law requires that a jury hear the gender-related retaliation claim, but that a judge decide the age-related portion. Thus, attorneys were simultaneously presenting their cases to both judge and jury, in different parts, for final judgment.

This case illustrates just how complicated things can get when discrimination cases go to court. In some cases, the law is so complex that even the lawyers are surprised by what is required. And as any lawyer will tell you, surprises are a bad thing when trying to win a case.

Don't be surprised by what happens when a discrimination or harassment claim is filed. Know the law, beginning with the requirements of your organization for such claims, all the way to the level of EEOC intervention. Knowledge is power, especially if the case finds its way into state or federal court.

Better yet - stay out of court altogether. With good planning, commitment of resources to training and leadership development, regular policy review, and a strong message from the top that discrimination and harassment will not be tolerated under any conditions, an organization has a good chance of never seeing the inside of a courtroom. And that would be a good thing, for everyone concerned.

Source: Denver Post, December 5 and 12, 2001

© Linda F. Willing, 2001