Practical Support for the Changing World at Work 
Linda F. Willing
P.O. Box 148
Grand Lake, CO
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Consider This...  March/April 2001 Issue Number 21

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.

You Can Ace the Assessment Center! Intensive 2 day assessment center preparation course, offered twice during the week of April 23-26, 2001. Location: Arvada Fire Training Center, 6651 Indiana St., Arvada, CO.. 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

A New Breed of Leader

As the new millennium begins, organizations are faced with workers who were born after the end of the Vietnam War. For these newest workers, Ronald Reagan is the first president they can remember, and the explosion of the Challenger space shuttle is as strong a memory as the assassination of a president was for a previous generation. The only war this generation has any experience of is one fought with high-tech weapons in a faraway desert, and chances are high that they did not personally know anyone who actually participated in Desert Storm.

No one who works in a multi-generational workplace will argue that things have changed. Some of these changes were outlined in last month's article in this space. As the newest generation grows in both age and experience, they are increasingly taking on leadership roles. What kind of leaders will they be? Here are a few points to keep in mind:

Young people are motivated by money. A 1993 University of California study of 18-19 year olds found that almost 75% of this group felt that "to be very well off financially" was essential or very important. In 1971, only 40% of a comparable group answered in this way. Another recent study found that 69% of 29 year olds said that what they wanted most from life was a high paying job.

What does this mean for future leaders in the emergency services? It means that promotions will have to bring financial reward as well as professional satisfaction for young people to have interest in the position. It means that if a career development opportunity conflicts with a lucrative second job, they very well might not pursue the opportunity. It means that if another department offers better pay and benefits, they might leave and start over rather than stay in what seems like a dead-end track of minimal wage increases.

Young people want more than just money from their jobs. Yes, the job has to pay what they feel they are worth. But younger workers, more than any previous generation, want it all. They want good pay and benefits. They also want family-friendly policies that allow them to spend time with their families, and allow women to combine childbearing with career.

What effect will this have on young leaders? They will be more likely to support and use family oriented policies at work, and also more likely to leave the job if such policies do not exist. They are also likely to have more conflicts between work and home, as they pursue relationships within two career households or take on single parenting. They are likely to make career decisions which prioritize their personal lives.

Young people believe in meritocracy. They want to participate as equals early in their careers, and believe the best people should advance regardless of seniority. They have little patience for systems which favor those who perform less well, but have been around a long time.

The result? The newer generation will not wait around before going for promotion. They want to fast-track their careers, partly to make financial and career gains, and partly because they feel the most qualified person, of any age or seniority, should be the one promoted. They tend to distrust hierarchy.

This is the first generation that was raised in the Information Age. Young people were raised with computers and the Internet. They are accustomed to instant access to information, and also expect a complete openness of information sharing.

The effect? Young leaders have little tolerance for leadership structures that allow the hoarding of information. They will not respond well to systems that run on a "need to know" basis. They feel they have the right to know, and will be impatient or intolerant of supervisors who are not technologically literate.

Young people are looking for teamwork and a sense of community at work. The new generation of workers was raised on the concept of teamwork, and they value it. They are much less likely than any previous generation to prefer a job that requires working alone. Additionally, the boundaries between work and private life have blurred for this generation. They are likely to have personal relationships with co-workers. They expect their families to be welcome in the workplace. They want to have fun at work.

The result? Younger leaders are likely to be sensitive to work/home issues on the job. They may be quite good at balancing task and interpersonal orientation, especially if they see this as a priority of their organizations. Finally, they are likely to be very loyal to the people they work with, even beyond the loyalty they feel to the job itself.

These are just a few of the effects you might see from a new generation of leaders in the emergency services. Although there will certainly be conflicts between the values and expectations of different generations, the newest group of leaders also possesses many strengths that will make them excellent leaders, if an organization is flexible enough to accept the changes they bring with them.

Source: Strategy and Business, First Quarter 1998.

News Brief

Seven current and former Microsoft employees have filed a $5 billion lawsuit against the company claiming racial discrimination and bias. Similar lawsuits have recently been settled at Coca-Cola and Publix Super Markets, for $192 million and $10.1 million respectively.

Sexual Harassment Update

Preventing Workplace Violence

A fired employee returns to the workplace and guns down former co-workers. A child who has been bullied comes to school with a gun and shoots as many people as he can. The scenario is all too familiar. It can and does happen just about anywhere. Preventing workplace or school violence is a complex issue, but many common themes have emerged from recent history, namely:

  • Perpetrators are often described as loners, or those who have been victimized by others.
  • In school shootings, perpetrators are often characterized as "passive" and ostracized from the mainstream.
  • Workplace shooters often have a history of violent or threatening behavior among their co-workers and may have been disciplined or terminated because of it.
  • Workplace shooters often have difficult personal lives, and/or financial problems.
  • Workplace and school shooters usually have a history of not being able to effectively solve their own problems.

Given these characteristics, what can you do to prevent violence in your organization?

  • Carefully screen employees before you hire them.
  • Follow employees closely through the probationary period. Confront potential problems early.
  • Train all employees, but especially first line supervisors, in effective problem solving, discipline, and mediation skills.
  • Do not tolerate hazing or bullying in the workplace.
  • Make all employees aware of available services such as Employee Assistance Programs, outside mediation, etc.
  • Take threats seriously. Do not hesitate to involve the police if threats of violence are made.
  • Provide a safe reporting mechanism for employees who may know of a potentially violent worker.
  • Clarify discipline and discharge procedures and make sure they are being handled fairly. Instruct all supervisors in the importance of good documentation.
  • Foster a workplace culture that is inclusive. Let all employees know that they are valued within the organization.
  • Watch out for sudden behavioral changes in any employee. Danger signs include inappropriate use of alcohol or drugs, reckless behavior on the job, unwanted changes in marital or family status, and sudden increased interest in weapons.
Workplace violence is preventable, but its prevention requires the commitment of everyone in the organization, from the top down. Leaders must look at themselves and the structure of their organizations and ask hard questions about what they are or are not doing to create a safe and inclusive work environment for everyone.


© Linda F. Willing, 2001