First of all let me say that I am mostly just venting and would like to see what other people think of this situation. The actual situation is resolved and can't be changed.
First some background info, we are a fairly small 100% volunteer department that has been around for 107 years. To join members must submit an application for membership which is read to the floor and discussed in month one. Then before the business meeting in month two the applicant is brought in and interviewed by the review board (5 members all officers, can be chief to lieutenant. Though we try to keep the chiefs out of it so it is more of a peer review) and then brought up to the floor at the meeting for a vote. Simple majority >50% and you're on as a probationary fireman. Our probation period is six months and is quite intensive. During each of those six months you are brought in by the review board and cheked up on once a month then discussed at the monthly meeting. Then in month 7 you are brought to the floor again to be voted as a regular member.
We had a member (member A) that had been on for three and a half years. He had a history with our previous chief (Chief B) that was 100% non fire related and it didn't go well (they both worked at the same place and Chief B was terminated, for cause, and he still thinks that member A is the reason why.) While member A was on he had been suspended by Chief B once while Chief B was the Assistant Chief and Chief A was out of town over a small dust up with another fireman. This was before my time but reliable sources say it wasn't a big deal and as soon as Chief A got back to town (3 days later I believe) he had a discussion with the involved members and suspension was lifted. When Chief B was chief (roughly a year and a half later) member A had a confrontation with a probationary fireman. Member A called "a spade a spade" and at the time other members didn't like it and it was taken to the chief and member A received a two week suspension. Looking back member A was 110% correct about said probie, but that's neither here nor there. Roughly six months later during the state drill convention member A had a confrontation with another member of the team during a competitive run, wasn't the best thing to do in a public place. But Chief B made matters worse by dressing down member in front of crowd and telling him to "get out of here!" When all drill team members got back to motel member A got with Chief B and tried to appologize and said he "earned what ever suspension that" he would be given. Chief B responded by saying, "this time it'll be more than a suspension." So member A resigned. Long story short (if that's possible at this point) member A actually ended up in professional therapy and really dug in to somethings that he was never able to admit to himself.
This member was a great combat fireman. Really knew his stuff and was well ahead of his three years service time. He was the top responder while he was on and made every maintenance meeting, training meeting, and monthly meeting, He also participated in every outside/community event our FD was involved in. Really, a hell of a good hand to work with, just not very good at interpersonal skills. I learned nearly all I know at this point in my career from this member, and so have other members that I have talked too. Now, to be fair, he did have attitude problems, could be a real ass at times and a VERY short fuse.
Well, now we have Chief C and member A re-applied (which, since he technically resigned is with in our by-laws to do.) Chief B actively campaigned against this guy mainly on the fact of their history and not quite wanting to relinquish his white helmet yet... The fireman that member A had a confrontation with on the drill grounds actually acts quite a lot like member A (quick attitude, just general ass sometimes.) But, member A had started showing up at department functions after he applied showing that he is trying to change and be a better person and this other fireman came up to him one day and gave a big "man hug" and said "it's good to see you," right before going to the bar and talking all about how bad of a person member A is...
Member A came up for his vote last night. Of course Chief A and the drill fireman had to stand and say their speechs. There were other members that were involved in his second suspension that stood up and said they thought they were wrong and he should be given another chance. Member A was not voted on 53%-47% (which was only two votes difference.)
What would you say to Chief B and drill fireman? How would you have handled it differently? But, mostly I, again, am just venting some frustration. Thanks for taking the time to read this novella! :)
I forgot to mention that we have been having a real membership push for roughly the last year with the goal of adding about 15 new members. We, just like most other departments, can end up short handed at times. we also have a pretty large membership gap between guys that have less than 5 years service and those that have 10+.
(Just a little more background to hopefully give some context to my frustrations)
I'm no fan of an election process for membership or even rank....too many "attitudes" and personal opinions at hand as opposed to impartialness. Seems there are also leadership issues in the upper echelon where personalities clash with the best interest of the organization.
Aside from that, I would be looking at what the policies are for discipline and ensure the procedures were followed. If procedures followed, then it is tough to argue against, irregardless of any other personal past history. Even if a person is right with the "spade-a-spade" scenarion, there is a matter of demeanor. If the person has a history of personality and attitude problems, then it doesn't matter how good a FF they can be, a bad attitude or big ego can be a cancer that spreads fast. However, if attitude was the deciding issue on declining membership again, then I would be looking at the chief level too....since it sounds like votes are the decider vs quals.
Thanks for the reply. Luckly we don't use any sort of election for officers out side of the chief, but that's typically a formality of making the previous Asst. chief the Chief. All other officers are selected by the chief. Right now we have a pretty good chief that has a crack group of officers in place and doesn't play games. come in do your job and have fun doing it, but be professional at all times.
I can see all of your points very well. I'm not sure that there are absolute set rules on leveying a suspension, outside of it's at the chiefs discretion, so I can't speak to the following of procedures here. The chief issue has been resolved by term limits so that's not an issue now, except for previous chief campaining against member...that's where my real frustrations lie. If you don't want some one to be a member because you have a personal problem vote no, but if you don't want them to be a member because of something that someone else said about this person that is of debatable (he said/he said type story with no confirmation either way) nature than that's another thing,
thanks again for the reply! Stay safe!
You know I have never met a perfect man/woman yet. Even if I did it would be perfect only in my book. Strong heads and determination are qualities a good leader often possesses, right? That's why they are often attracted to adrenaline based tasks, right? Isn't running a pump or an interior attack crew more about knowing your job and limitations then interpersonal skills? As a VFF works through the ranks the training involves learning skills on equipment and how to lead your crew. Some people naturally have interpersonal skills, others wELL...
Probably the majority of volunteer departments have a nearly identical story to share. It's the reality of small town america. I've seen several similar issues in 20 years. Right there with you now.
That "Member A" had the mind to get help on his own (right?) is impressive/encouraging. These resources are available pretty much anywhere with a reasonable drive. Why can't we help our own? Personal development is really important as professional development, maybe even more in a VFD where your paycheck isn't held hostage according to your performance. Maybe the cheifs/Review Board ought to be required to attend some training that addresses personal development in the department from the bottom up. It's only been recently that I paid any attention to personal development in the station. Brain slowly kicking in over brawn, slowly!
Good luck. Think outside the confines of the station walls. No FF1 manual on this one...
Those are all points that we have been looking at. If you know how to do your job very well, and are working towards correcting the personel issues...aren't they (the memeber) worth a shot? I have found out, after the voting was all said and done, that we have had chiefs of the department that had left over some sort of problems, made scenes, though at the station, not in a public setting, (I wasn't given the details) and then came back through the ranks to become chief.
After reviewing my original post I see that I neglected to state that the member was encouraged to get help by his "day job" employeer. He admitted that he was very...um...hessitant about going at first, but, after starting to make progress he stated that he actually wanted to continue on and become a better person.
I, as a junior memeber of our review board, would like to learn more about adressing personal development and would like to get some of our other members to sit in as well! I'm sure it would also help in my day job as well. (sales & service manager of a retail store) Now that the point has been raised that is something that I will have to look in to. Thank you for that!
Thanks for the insight! Maybe it's in the FF2 manual :)
edited for clairification and grammatical fixes
I'm not sure that there are absolute set rules on leveying a suspension, outside of it's at the chiefs discretion
This would be the first place I would be looking. If there are no established rules or guidelines, outside of chief's discretion, then that should be a red flag. In most departments there is a police and fire commission or board of directors to have a say. Such an entity should be in place, especially for depts where a chief is voted into a position....for the examples noted. This one, gives an appeal process for a member and should have an outside opinion to base a judgement. (this is for the disciplinary process)
As for the voting a new person in...again, such steps should be written down and clearly defined. If there is something in place and steps followed, it is hard to dispute the end results. However, if not happy, this can be something to bring up to evaluate and perhaps change.
Isn't running a pump or an interior attack crew more about knowing your job and limitations then interpersonal skills?
Yes and no.
Todays fire service paradigm has changed and despite the mindsets of traditionalists, the generational gaps are apparent. Even the military has seen and adapted to changes for the generation of those serving today as opposed to those from 20 plus years ago. What stands out is that interpersonal skills are most definately a part of the fire service today and should be adapted despite one's job skills. The same thing could be said about basically any industry out there....even a traditional factory job has changed and there is more interpersonal aspects at hand as opposed to sitting at a machine until shift change.
So what I mean here is that no, running a pump or interior crew is not just about knowing the job anymore, but instead to know, understand, and work with the people who are also involved. The days of Joe Schmo showing up to drive and pump are (or should be) over. This means that training, working as a crew, and ensuring communication are the priorities today rather than a "do as I say" approach. This means for the fire service today, the actual fireground events develop at the station, they develop by working with a crew, they develop by allowing everyone to have a say. Knowing your job skills is no longer the biggest priority in a team approach.
This means that one could really be a good FF and know the job well. However, if their personality and attitude is poor outside the fireground, then people don't want to work with such a person....this further leads to a breakdown of the team. As a team breaksdown, it leads to a breakdown of the dept and so forth.....so realistically such personalities can be a cancer that spreads.
Having a personal development program is a plus and should be implemented or looked to implement by depts. This way people should know the job description, expectations, and how to attain the qualifications to move up. Furthermore is to have something in place like an EAP (employee assistance program) for members to utilize which can help with any number of stressors in the fire service. This way if there are issues involved (as described) there can be an outside source to help with that....be it anger, attitude, personal conflicts and so forth.
This means that the skill set of personnel is no longer the driving forth, but instead the watching out and looking at the interpersonal skills.
Thanks for your insight. It seems everybody and their brother has now started to put into print and podcast what previously were skills handed down through time and by apprenticeship roles. When I wrote the comment you quoted I was thinking about the time honored tradition of how a new FF (or any practical skill job) learned on the job by being assigned to a senior man. The skill set learned were mostly practical skills and less interpersonal skills like those allegedly missing in Member A. There is no doubt an apprentice does gain those interpersonal skills as well, both good and bad! In a truly professional environment (vol or career) a person without decent interpersonal skills would stall their advancement. Reading the storyline I have to assume that the blame lies with more than just one member here. We all agree, there's a problem. Answer?
Previous generations relied on peer groups probably more than any other method to address personal development (and most all skills I believe) didn't they? So now let me open open Pandora's box. So the generations that are up and coming aren't good at certain skills; ok, is it up to them to recognize the problem and fix it or is up to us as the leader to find a dynamic answer and not give up? This generational change in attitude must have come from somewhere. Have we been asleep at the switch? Can we not deal with this early on and minimize the problem rather than letting it blow up? Is the problem necessarily all Member A's doing? It wouldn't be fair to pin the blame on any one person. The chief as the head of the department, and the officers and the board of directors as the balance of power and overseers, have accountability. Were the lack of interpersonal skills not addressed early on when things could have been dealt with. As the story reads Member A has a history. It is much easier to say "You know how he is..." rather than recognizing and working on ANSWERS.
So just where is the missing link(s)? You mention the military and dealing with generational change. I admit I have read only one book that had a direct link to the military and current (15 years) trends with enlisted members, but it seemed to me in that most of the problems came from above. The box was rigid. The answer to everything was "Because that's how it is." The answers then came from below. The people in the middle started asking the people on the bottom what they would do differently to make it better. Sure mistakes were made. Things slowly started working better and that led to some of the changes that have been implemented. My perspective is that the fire service equivalent, Capt and Assistant Chiefs, need to work finding answers and take those to the Chief & BoD and change the mindset. I see many parallels. Maybe a little large concept for a small dept with very limited resources but as I see it, probably one of the cheapest training programs they could implement. No gear, no appliances, no apparatus and no travel. A few books/cd's for the people in charge of others. Then just time, maybe balanced time spent learning personal development and interpersonal skills and as well as practical skills.
OK for the ramblings. Simply I suggest that like I previously said; it is probably time for the people that control the department to make changes. Getting rid of a problem may seem the simple answer and maybe it was the best, I'm certainly not clairvoyant enough to tell that from a couple of paragraphs from one person's perspective. But I do relate very much with Henri's story. Is our box too rigid? Maybe. Is time to change? No doubt. The volunteer fire service needs Member A's too much to just ignore problems. Agree with all your points wholeheartedly John.
Henri, good luck. It sounds as if you and some in your dept. may be on the right track. Some of the podcasts I listened to did give me some insight into personal development and I definitely gained personally by listening to these. Believe it or not, because I'm in sales as well, one of my best starts was Jeffery Gitomer. OK WTH does a sales coach have to do with the FD? He talks about personal accountability, positive attitude and trustworthyness. Making people believe in you, taking responsibility and getting things done are the core concepts. If you haven't read/listened try his Little Red Book of Selling or CD. Thanks for listening.
It seems everybody and their brother has now started to put into print and podcast what previously were skills handed down through time and by apprenticeship roles..........I was thinking about the time honored tradition of how a new FF (or any practical skill job) learned on the job by being assigned to a senior man.
While true, the times have also changed as well. There is so much out there to learn from and means of learning that we don't have to depend upon the apprenticeship skillset alone. At the same time it can be argued if the changes are for the better or for the worse, but realistically the changes are here and will only evolve more. This is why interpersonal skills hold more bearing than just knowing how to do the job.
So the generations that are up and coming aren't good at certain skills; ok, is it up to them to recognize the problem and fix it or is up to us as the leader to find a dynamic answer and not give up?
Bit of both. We already see numerous examples of people who expect to be spoonfed information. One doesn't have to roam from this site to see examples of someone coming on and asking repetitive questions and only get upset when the answer was "use the search feature" or do your own homework. So the job still requires personal initiative to improve oneself, but it also takes people willing to recognize and help with such improvements. This doesn't mean that one has to spoonfeed infor mation, but a simple guiding can help.
For example say you have a FF who is working on moving up to be an engineer of a rig. It is going to take both guidence and initiative to get to that point. While one can teach and be alongside training, it is still going to take individual responsibility to learn. So say you show such a person how to pump, OK fine, the next time you go out, should you not expect them to retain the info and go through the motions? Sure there will be mistakes and questions, but progress should be noted.....if such progress isn't noted then what? Well you can go back over things and guide the person where to look and to seek further time and help. At the same time though you can't just show a person once and expect them to be able to retain all knowledge as well.
This generational change in attitude must have come from somewhere. Have we been asleep at the switch? Can we not deal with this early on and minimize the problem rather than letting it blow up?
The changes have always been around and every generation has noted differences from others. It isn't because we have been asleep at the switch, but it takes time for the changes to be recognized. One can't say it is from being asleep, because the changes do not just involve the one generation. For instance, texting and instant communication is something the younger generation has grown up on, yet when such technologies first came out, you see a cross generational acceptance as well. Just look at how many chiefs and senior FFs have accepted such technologies like texting, instant comms, etc. What we do have today are people who focus on such changes and studies out there to point out such examples, making them more prominent.
However, the fact remains there will always be personality issues at hand and yes, we can deal with such issues early on without them blowing up. However, some examples still fall through the crack.
Is the problem necessarily all Member A's doing? It wouldn't be fair to pin the blame on any one person. The chief as the head of the department, and the officers and the board of directors as the balance of power and overseers, have accountability
In this case, No, the problem is not just member "A"s doing and no it isn't right to blame just one person. In the situation given there is just as much onus on the chief as member A......the difference becomes the heirarchy. As I mentioned, if there were set rules and guidelines in place and if there were followed, it is hard to dispute the decision despite personalities. In this particular scenario, if what is given is true, I see many issues at hand, however, if member A resigned as noted, then it seems rules were followed for reinstatement or lack thereof. The point being is that there were attitude issues, the member resigned, looked to get back on, wasn't voted in.....hard to dispute the decision, despite how knowledgeable the member was.
Were the lack of interpersonal skills not addressed early on when things could have been dealt with. As the story reads Member A has a history. It is much easier to say "You know how he is..." rather than recognizing and working on ANSWERS.
Hard to say, but my guess would be yes, such issues were not addressed and if so, could have been arbitrarily dismissed. It perhaps could be when the member was no longer associated there was a wake up call. Again the door swing both ways. So say if someone found themselves in a similar situation, there are avenues and means to approach things that I don't think was done.
The answer to everything was "Because that's how it is." The answers then came from below. The people in the middle started asking the people on the bottom what they would do differently to make it better
I know I'm skipping things here, but essentially, yes. The "Because I said so" goes only so far. It is still an intergral point of the fire service, but has it's limitations. We can not, as good FFs, no longer accept this as an answer overall. An example is Chief Salka's blog on "Transitional attack is whack" and then a subsequent thread by a member here. Today a FF is expected to learn that fire IS a science and that they should be aware of their surroundings vs relying solely on the "because I said so" aspect. Years ago if a FF was told to cut a roof and asked why, such a response could be made......today if a FF is told to cut a roof, they should know why........at the same time, a FF should also be aware to say no too. This goes to "unsafe orders" type of thing, a FF today should be able to size up the situation before implementing......so if there is fire already venting through the roof, the order can and should be questioned.
At the same time for such an example, the interpersonal skills come into play. A FF should be trained on how to cut a roof before being on the fireground, they should know why such a tactic is used, they should ask questions if there are any, vs "because I said so....or this is how it has always been done". Along with that is the reality that newer people are more educated in many ways and their experience and knowledge should be utilized, vs just the senior FFs mentality. A good example is when I was an intern the chief made it clear to the dept that interns are going to school for fire science, they are getting the latest information and we should be utilizing their knowledge as well as giving ours. Where some depts treated interns as grunts etc....that dept embraced them.....as such how such issues get addressed...together.