October/November 2002 Issue Number 40
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 areas of leadership development, workplace diversity,
change management, and conflict resolution will be discussed.
hope that you find the information here useful and provocative.
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Annual Women Chief Fire Officers Fire Service Leadership Conference
November 8-10, 2002 at Motorola University, Schaumburg, Illinois.
Call 630-990-2390 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
for more information.
International Conference of Fire Service Women April 23-27, 2003.
Denver, CO. Contact email@example.com
for more information.
February 9-13, 2003. Sacramento, CA.
federal fire captain in Hawaii was recently arrested for making "terroristic
threats" against another employee in the workplace. The underlying
cause of the conflict? Whether someone had a right to put a lock on
an ice machine.
firefighter in England was convicted earlier this year of causing
grievous bodily harm after he fractured a co-worker's skull with a
coffee mug during an argument. The source of the dispute? Who should
answer the telephone.
Certainly. But these were also respected and successful firefighters
involved in these incidents. How did things ever go this far?
the Hawaii case, the conflict went back years. The federal property
had been used in the past as a private commercial farm, and the accused,
Captain Robert Abad, was a primary farmer on the property, which raised
pigs, catfish, prawns, and edible snails. Another captain, Milton
Kaopua, felt the commercial venture was inappropriate and he documented
his complaints. Later, Captain Abad blamed Captain Kaopua when his
lock was cut off an ice machine in the fire station. This incident
led to the alleged threat.
the British case, Firefighter Michael Mole was arguing with Firefighter
Peter Talbot when a dispute over the telephone escalated and Mole
hit Talbot in the head with a Winnie-the-Pooh coffee mug. Mole was
convicted of a lesser charge than what might have been possible because
the court felt he had a "positive good character" and had momentarily
lost control due to the "demanding and stressful work environment."
the surface these stories may look like farce. Snail farms? Winnie-the-Pooh
coffee mugs? But the real result is that one firefighter has a permanent
head injury, another faces loss of his job as a result of a criminal
conviction, and a third is out on bail for a charge that could result
in a year in prison.
these incidents, and others like them, are completely preventable.
These were good firefighters who ended up doing bad things as a result
of unresolved interpersonal conflict in the workplace. There are always
better alternatives for resolving conflict than violence or threats,
but such lower level solutions must be initiated early in the dispute,
before things escalate to crazy levels.
has a responsibility to make sure conflict resolution happens at the
appropriate level. Officers and other departmental leaders have the
greatest accountability; to insure that employees have skills to resolve
low level conflict, to provide systems of support for conflict resolution
such as mediation and arbitration, and to enforce rules fairly and
consistently. Conflict resolution skills should be as basic to the
workplace as pulling hose or driving the truck. It is the leader's
responsibility to make certain this is an organizational priority,
and it is everyone's responsibility to meet the standards that are
set in this area. Ignore the need for conflict resolution at your
own peril; it could be your department in the next news story.
TheHawaiiChannel.com, August 29, 2002
January 7, 2002