Practical Support for the Changing World at Work 
Linda F. Willing
P.O. Box 148
Grand Lake, CO
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Consider This... July 2018 Issue Number 216

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  

Fire-Rescue International will take place August 8-11, 2018 in Dallas, TX.

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. More details to follow.

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

Seeing is Believing

It's summer again, so it must be time for American Ninja Warrior on television. I admit it: I'm a fan. Yes, the whole thing is contrived, and sometimes the human interest element is overdone (although some of the stories are undeniably inspiring.) But I love that the competitors all cheer for one another, and that experienced athletes mentor the younger people, and that effort and commitment are celebrated. And you just cannot deny the pure athleticism of what they do-- it's beyond belief sometimes.

But there they are, really doing it. There are men and women from teenagers to those beyond middle age, all putting themselves out there on an obstacle course that would be challenging for any athlete.

In particular, I notice the women. This season they have already had one city qualifier where three women finished the course, among nine men who did. Fully 25% of all finishers were women, something that had never happened before.

For some time such achievement did not seem possible. The series started in 2009 but it was not until 2014 that a single woman completed a qualifying course. Watch the first five seasons of the show and you won't see women around.

But now, just four years later, five women have already completed the qualifying course, and that is just so far this year. The courses have not been made easier; on the contrary, when you compare the obstacles today to those in the early seasons, it is clear that the courses are now much more difficult. What has changed is the caliber of competitors, among both men and women.

Little girls are watching this show now, seeing beautiful strong women competing head to head with men, and watching them succeed. When they see women completing ANW courses, or being firefighters, or filling any number of other jobs and roles where women were once excluded-- these girls think: I could do that too. That is the importance of visible role models. That is one legacy of American Ninja Warrior.


News Brief

The United States Supreme Court has reversed and remanded a lower court ruling that supported a state requirement that those who choose not to join a labor union must still pay agency shop fees to the union. The court ruled that "The State's extraction of agency fees from nonconsenting public-sector employees violates the First Amendment." The union membership rate of public-sector workers (34.4 percent) is more than five times higher than that of private-sector workers (6.5 percent).

Sources: USSC JANUS v. AMERICAN FEDERATION OF STATE, COUNTY, AND MUNICIPAL EMPLOYEES and Bureau of Labor Statistics, January 19, 2018


Sexual Harassment Update

Call It What It Is

There has been a lot of talk lately about inappropriate behavior. CEOs and Hollywood stars have lost their jobs due to actions that have been generically lumped into the inappropriate category. Behavior that has been called inappropriate ranges from offhand comments to physical contact.

The dictionary definition of inappropriate is "not right or suited for some purpose or situation." This implies that the behavior would otherwise be acceptable, but that the context was wrong. Therefore, when a commentator said that Meghan Markle's choice of an off-the-shoulder dress at a military ceremony was "inappropriate," the implication was that the dress would be fine in a different venue.

This definition clearly does not reflect behavior that is always wrong and unacceptable-- demeaning or racist remarks, sexual extortion, physical assault. These behaviors fall on a scale that ranges from unprofessional to criminal. To say that such behavior is simply "inappropriate" undermines the severity of it and also somehow implicates the victim ("What I did might have been okay if you hadn't been so sensitive.")

When unprofessional or illegal behavior is downplayed as merely inappropriate, you tend to get non-apologies after the fact. "I'm sorry you felt offended by what happened" is not an apology and does not put responsibility where it lies, on the perpetrator, not the victim.

To say that some behavior is inappropriate is not really useful. To be clearly understood, more specific language must be used. "That language is unprofessional and unacceptable. It will not be tolerated here." Or "What you have been doing is a pattern of workplace harassment-- you will be disciplined for it, and if it continues, you will be terminated."

It is possible to be impolite and inappropriate, but when behavior crosses the line into unprofessional, unacceptable, or illegal actions, then it must be called out for what it is. Language is important.

Source: The New York Times, June 24, 2018




© Linda F. Willing, 2018