Practical Support for the Changing World at Work 
Linda F. Willing
P.O. Box 148
Grand Lake, CO
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Consider This...

October 2007 Issue Number 93

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.

We hope that you find the information here useful and provocative.
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Upcoming Events  

"Polishing the Gold"-- National Society of Executive Fire Officers Leadership Conference October 16-18, 2007, Monte Carlo Resort, Las Vegas, NV. Go to for more information.

"Many Faces, Many Voices--One Dream, One Union" Human Relations Conference of the International Association of Fire Fighters. January 20-23, 2008, Sheraton Hotel, New Orleans, LA. Go to for more information.

8th Biennial Fire Service Women's Leadership Training Seminar April 24-27, 2008 Glendale, AZ. Go to for more information.


In the News

Ending Demotivation

Most companies have it all wrong. They don't have to motivate their employees. They have to stop de-motivating them.

This statement summarizes the recent findings of three researchers from the Sirota Survey Intelligence group, which conducted surveys of over 1.2 million employees over a period of four years. Their key finding? According to the report published in the Harvard Management Update, "The great majority of employees are quite enthusiastic when they start a new job. But in about 85% of companies, employees' morale sharply declines after their first six months, and continues to deteriorate for years afterward."

The study's findings directly contradict management theory that is based on the premise that employees are mainly working for money, and need prizes, slogans, and other special measures to get them to perform at a top level.

On the contrary, this study indicates that most people want to do good work and get fulfillment from real contributions they make, beyond just receiving a paycheck. However, the study also shows how easy it is to kill individual motivation in the workplace. The most commonly cited de-motivators are negative organizational culture and poorly functioning line managers, with deficiencies ranging from overly bureaucratic structures to supervisors that just don't care about their workers.

The study offers a number of suggestions for improving employee morale, including:

* Create an atmosphere of pride and recognition. Don't overlook the importance of defining the common mission or discount the importance of saying thank you for a job well done.

* Redefine the manager's role. Most workplace interactions are not enhanced by strict adherence to a command and control model. Managers need to understand that their role changes depending on the needs of the situation-- in some cases they may be arbitrators or disciplinarians, in others, they will act more as facilitators.

* Put time and attention into building effective teams. Highly functioning teams are more creative and productive than individuals, provide opportunities for learning, and create an environment of support and inclusion.

* Communicate clearly and often. Good communication includes effective speaking, writing, and listening. Workers' frustration with ineffective or absent communication from their supervisors is a leading cause of poor workplace morale.

The emergency services tend to use a command and control model on emergency scenes, which can lead to ineffective management practices when away from that environment. Whether on or off the emergency scene, a sense of personal commitment to the job and the team, and effective leadership and communication will go a long way toward retaining and capitalizing on the enthusiasm most workers have for the job when they first arrive.

Source: HR Daily Advisor, September 26, 2007


News Brief

Women in the Fire Service International ( has announced its intended merger with the Women Chief Fire Officers ( The proposed name for the new organization is the International Association of Women in Fire and Emergency Services.

Source: Women in the Fire Service

Sexual Harassment Update

Motherhood and Disability

Sophie Currier felt she faced an impossible choice. Having just completed a joint M.D-Ph.D. program at Harvard University, she was preparing to take the grueling nine-hour medical licensing exam, a test that strictly allowed students only 45 minutes of breaks during the process. This limited amount of break time would be stressful for anyone, but Sophie had an additional concern-- she was breastfeeding her 4 month old daughter at the time.

Ms. Currier requested extra break time that would allow her to nurse her baby, but was turned down. She then sued the National Board of Medical Examiners, but initially lost. Only on appeal was her request deemed reasonable, as a way of putting her on "equal footing" with men and non-lactating women taking the exam, according to Appeals Court Judge Gary Katzmann.

Students taking the exam with identified disabilities routinely get special accommodation for completing it. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires that employers and schools make "reasonable accommodation" of disabilities as long as those accommodations do not create "undue hardship" for the agency making that accommodation. But motherhood, or nursing a baby, are not disabilities and are therefore not covered under the ADA. Some states do have laws that protect the rights of nursing mothers; others do not.

Breast feeding is a natural and healthy way to nourish an infant. But it is not effortless. Breastfeeding takes time, and can often only happen properly in a relatively relaxed environment. Forcing someone to hurry up to breast feed a baby will have negative consequences for both the mother and her child.

And how hard is it, really, to provide accommodation for a breast feeding mother? I recently had a student at the National Fire Academy who was breastfeeding twins while enrolled in the EFO program. With cooperation from the woman's husband, and very small accommodations among program staff, not only was this woman able to continue providing breast milk to her babies while in the program, but virtually no one else involved in the class even knew what was going on.

In the past, some men and women alike have had the attitude that new mothers have no business being at work, and any accommodation made for them encourages a situation that should not exist in the first place. This attitude is not congruent with the reality of the world today, however. Motherhood is not a disability but making accommodation for it at work is not that difficult, and there are great rewards for all when a workplace is truly family friendly in this way.

Sources: Associated Press, September 26, 2007; Business and Legal Reports, July 5, 2007


© Linda F. Willing, 2007

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