May 2019 Issue Number 226
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 areas of leadership development, workplace diversity, change management, and conflict resolution will be discussed.
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The Price of Trust
A firefighter in Denver discovers a camera hidden in her private dressing and showering area. She reports it to her officer who tries to talk her into waiting to report it further. It turns out he was the one who put the camera there. Later he told a coworker it had been intended as a "prank."
This isn't the first time a camera has been used to invade the privacy of a woman at work. Other women firefighters have endured the same violation. So have women in the military, including a female marine who recently found a recording device in her bathroom on the ship where she is stationed.
For nearly a year between 2013-2014, recording devices were placed in women's private areas aboard the Navy submarine Wyoming. They filmed every woman each time she took a shower during a three-month patrol. The videos were then shared among male crew members. Some men directly filmed the women while some acted as lookouts. Many others stayed silent about what was going on. One man rationalized his silence this way, "I was still somewhat new to the division and so I didn't want to say anything because the higher ranking MTs would always treat the lower ranks like trash and would always try to put them down. So I didn't want to worsen my life more than it already was, so I tried to ignore it and stay out of it for fear of being disowned by the division."
It's a familiar story. People stay silent out of fear or complicity. Leaders don't do their jobs. And those with the least support are the most vulnerable.
Real people suffered real harm from these incidents, and nothing can undo it. But perhaps the largest loss is trust. As one woman, deployed on a different submarine said, "I really do think the submarine community is special; members of your crew become like family. In my experience relationships with members of my crew were founded on trust and mutual respect. This event contradicted what I thought was a universal sense of camaraderie among submariners."
Trust is the currency of leadership. When it is broken, it can take years to restore. And the only way to do that is to fundamentally change the leadership and culture that allowed trust to be broken in the first place.
Sources: Navy Times, December 8, 2015 and The Denver Post, April 4, 2019