December 2019 Issue Number 233
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.
I hope that you find the information here useful and provocative.
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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.
Fire-Rescue International will take place in Phoenix, AZ August 19-21, 2020.
Women in Fire will hold an international conference in Spokane, WA September 23-26, 2020.
The Transfer Solution
Two firefighters argue constantly. A company officer feels a new crew member just "doesn't fit in." A firefighter asks for consideration based on religion that other firefighters don't share. A foul-mouthed engineer causes complaints.
What is often the first solution to these and similar problems? Transfer one or all of the troublesome workers.
Shift or station transfers have their place and are the right solution for some problems. For example, if one firefighter has an affair with a coworker's spouse, it would probably be best in the short term that they not work together in close proximity. If two firefighters who are also business partners off the job have that business fail, resulting in litigation-- well, some space might be in order. But for routine issues among coworkers, transferring people can actually make the problems worse.
Let me be clear: Getting along is part of the job. People are paid or otherwise compensated to do it. It is not an option for anyone to say, "I'm just difficult. Get over it." Everyone has an obligation to try to get along with others they work with.
Transferring someone is an act of avoidance-- it does not address the underlying cause of the problem that led to the transfer. So if one or more firefighters are behaving badly, they are likely to continue to behave badly in their new environment. The problem hasn't been solved, it has been multiplied.
Getting along as coworkers does not mean being best friends. You don't even have to like someone to treat them with inclusion and respect.
But getting along in this way does involve skills that some firefighters do not actively cultivate. These would include skills of effective communication and conflict management, including tactics to defuse escalating tension.
Company officers, as part of their job, must set standards and act as good examples in this regard. But all firefighters are both morally and professionally obligated to solve interpersonal problems on the job the same way they solve life safety problems in service to the community. Transferring people to solve problems should only be done in very limited circumstances and as a last resort. Getting along is part of the job and that means working out problems as they come up, not avoiding them and allowing them to grow.