Practical Support for the Changing World at Work 
Linda F. Willing
P.O. Box 148
Grand Lake, CO
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Consider This... September 2018 Issue Number 218

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  

The King County (WA) Fire Chiefs Association will be holding its annual meeting at the end of September on Bainbridge Island, WA. Linda Willing will be a featured speaker at this event, presenting on "Managing Differences, Resolving Conflict" on September 26 at 1300.

Now available! On the Line: Women Firefighters Tell Their Stories by Linda F. Willing. This book features interviews with over 35 women firefighters from the United States and Canada. The book is available from major online booksellers, and signed copies may be ordered through this website.


In the News

Inside Outsiders

New research published in the Harvard Business Review underscores what is generally considered common knowledge in the business world-- when managed well, diverse teams make better, more creative decisions that those with only homogenous members.

But management of diverse teams is essential for those teams to function effectively. It is not enough to simply throw a bunch of different people together and expect them to excel. On the contrary, teams where differences dominate without the ability to communicate well often end up being largely dysfunctional.

The study's author emphasizes the importance of the role of cultural brokers. These are team members who are either insiders with the dominant culture represented by the team, or outsiders who bring a distinctly different perspective to the group. The author emphasizes the need for representatives from both groups to bridge gaps and ask the critical questions that may not be apparent to other team members for cultural reasons.

It is possible to function in both roles, the "inside outsider." These are people in organizations who might not have been traditionally included-- think racial minorities and women in the fire service, for example-- but who are fully knowledgeable members of the organization. These people can often have the ability to see issues from more than one perspective, a valuable skill in team operation.

Source: Harvard Business Review, July 24, 2018


News Brief

A federal judge in Washington DC has struck down most of the key provisions of three executive orders signed by President Trump in May. The effect of these orders would have made it easier to fire federal workers. The orders specifically reduced allowable time for remediation after a negative performance review and also limited the amount of on-duty time union officials could spend on that work. The Trump administration now has the option of appealing this decision to the federal circuit court.

Source: The New York Times, August 26, 2018


Sexual Harassment Update

Honoring an Investment

A firefighter is nearing the end of her probationary year and is required to pass certain skills tests as part of completing probation. This particular firefighter has years of successful experience with other fire departments before joining this one. However, on the occasion of her final probationary testing, she does not have her best day. Among other factors is that she is scheduled to do the most physically taxing evolution-- a solo raise of the 20 foot ladder--last among all others, when everyone is exhausted. She is able to do it, but by her own admission, it is not her best effort.

As a result of these test results, the department terminates the firefighter. Now she is suing the department for discrimination based on disparate treatment, citing this and other incidents as proof.

This case has yet to be decided. But it does bring up a critical question. Why would this or any fire department want one of its members to be fired based on one incident such as this? Why wouldn't they rather be doing everything possible to insure that all their first year employees, who they have already invested so much time and effort and money in, succeed?

In this woman's lawsuit, she claims that this department did in fact invest in some of its probationary firefighters, supporting them and allowing them to redo some skills testing after "critical fails." She said she was never allowed the same accommodation.

It is natural and even appropriate that some people who begin the process of becoming firefighters do not make it to completion. Some find that the job is not a good fit for them, some present intractable traits that are disqualifying. Usually these issues arise fairly soon in the fire academy or probationary year. To terminate someone who has been otherwise successful based on a single event on a single day after more than a year on the job makes no sense.

Becoming a firefighter is a huge investment, for the candidate and the department. Departments should be committed to the success of all those who similarly commit themselves to the success of their departments. In this case, it seems that there were many other potential outcomes that would not have resulted in litigation.

Source: Anna Araujo v. City of Anaheim, Superior Court of the State of California


© Linda F. Willing, 2018