Running People Off

This is the second part to our Three Part Series Titled: “Entitlement, Running People Off, & the Push for Higher Education.”

If you missed it…Check out the First part: “Entitlement”.

In this 3-part-series, we will be discussing, or more realistically, I will be ranting. You will read this and at the end, you may or may not feel mentally violated.

Running People Off

This subject is intertwined with what we talked about in “Entitlement.” When the type of new employee that I described as being from the “everyone gets a ribbon” generation comes into the department, they need clear direction on what they are to be doing from day one. They don’t learn firehouse etiquette in their fire science classes. They don’t learn how to deal with firehouse personalities either. They are thrown directly into your firehouse and are subject to all the dynamics and personalities of your crew, so don’t get your undershorts in a bunch when they don’t automatically know what to do.

We all walked down our own path think-about-why-you-startedknown as life.  When we grew up, we all learned things differently. Make sure your rookie knows that it is not wrong to ask questions. It is not wrong to not know what the morning routine is and it’s not wrong to be oblivious to the fact that they shouldn’t ask the Chief any questions before he has his morning coffee. It is not the end of humanity to do a task wrong the first time. As the senior member, you need to explain why things are the way they are so that the new guy/gal understands.

But so often, we don’t do that, do we? We turn a blind eye to the fact that the educational facilities in our area only teach these kids just enough to maybe not get killed in a fire. We ridicule them and browbeat them for not “knowing what’s up” or “getting with the program” when they have no idea that they shouldn’t ask the senior guy who’s topped out and hates riding the medic. The haven’t been around to even know what their job is, let alone know which way the toilet paper goes on the roll.

The new boot has a hard run in the beginning and each mistake, no matter how small, is blown up by the rest of the crew to be the equivalent of stabbing a kitten in the face. It’s ridiculous, and it’s our fault. The mob mentality takes over and gains momentum. We make it so hard for them that they often leave. Or, we use the bull shit stories we made up about the minor mistakes they have made to get them removed from the company. We high-five each other about taking care of the “problem” but sit around the table our next shift and bitch like a bunch of grumpy old women when we are short on the rig or have to ride the medic two tours in a row. I guess being senior employees makes us feel like we have the right to bitch but not offer solutions. Bitching without providing a solution is called whining!

We tend to be in the business of not even giving people a chance sometimes and then wonder why we can’t get recruits or why our department’s reputation starts to slide. We can’t get our heads out of each other’s asses to see that it is a situation we created. Hey, but we get to retire someday and get paid by a place that we didn’t even contribute to, right? Super sweet!

I’m not saying that you need to powder their asses as they work to fit into your department. There has to be a clear understanding of the objectives that they need to meet. A standard set of goals for every recruit. There has to be an understanding on the part of the crews that not everyone learns the same way. We are seeing a crop of kids that may have been home-schooled, e-schooled or in some alternative learning environment growing up. That doesn’t mean they are stupid or inept; that just means they learned differently than you or your crew.

Assembly line education was great,rules-of-the-game wasn’t it? I mean, being made fun of and bullied or called a nerd for being different, that was neat, right? My scars run deep Mick; they run deep. Ahh, the memories….

All I am saying is keep an open mind when training the new recruit. They may need you to work outside of your comfort zone to help them learn. What they don’t need is an environment where no one can learn from a mistake. They don’t need to be pushed out of your department because you or your department leaders are too short sided or ignorant to find a way to help them. They don’t need to be asked, “What don’t you understand?” or “What don’t you know so that we can teach you?” They obviously have no clue what they “don’t know.” So why even bother asking? Are you there to teach them, or are you just there? Sometimes neither is helpful. And it’s not the new firefighter that is the “problem”; it’s YOU!

Next time we will talk about higher education. As the son of an attorney, higher education was the “end-all, be-all” in my house. Needless to say, I didn’t follow the same path as my sister. What’s it like sitting at a desk all the time? I can’t even imagine….


Stay Tuned for “The Push For Higher Education.”


6 thoughts on “Running People Off

  1. I am rather disheartened to read this article and hope these behaviors aren’t as widespread as the author intimates. If you “ridicule and browbeat” new hires for not knowing “what’s up”, your days are numbered. If “the senior guy that’s topped out and hates riding the medic” can’t be asked questions, your culture sucks! If you’re allowing “the mob mentality to gain momentum”, you think we are “in the business of not even giving people a chance”, then high five when you get rid of someone all while thinking it’s ok to compare your behavior with “grumpy, old women”, you really should seek out legal advice. Your behavior will cost the citizens you “serve” their fire department. Labor and EEO lawsuits get expensive. This entire article casts this profession in a bad light. I hope this doesn’t represent even a tiny percentage of the nation’s fire departments. In the last 30+ years I have worked for several departments. I have not seen the behaviors sited in this article tolerated in any of them. I have been involved in the end many careers during my own career. Not a one was from “bullshit”, nor would any administration I’ve worked for accept that in an employment decision. They have all been performance based, with multiple attempts and the requisite training and remediation performed to give them a chance. There were several I felt relieved to see go (because they presented a danger to others), but I don’t recall high-fiving over any of them.

  2. I think the articles are right on the money! I felt like he was standing in any typical 100 man fire dept. shift change with a New Guy present. And to tell you the truth as a 17 yr Lieutenant who’s had a Probie almost every 2 years for the past 10. This “Have a Hallmark moment ” and explain Why I’m making the decision I am .Or explain without using the “F” ” word for the 10th time how to fold a TripleLay. This New Guy Generation is F’n killing me.

  3. Thanks for putting this valuable information down on this forum. It is truly needed and is eye opening for everyone from the newest member to the Fire Chief. I think back to my time as a very young Crash Rescue Firefighter having spent (I think) 10 weeks at Crash Rescue Fire School at Greenville MS AFB and then being assigned to Ramstein Germany AFB as a Airman 3rd Class. The one thing I do remember that is different from municipal Fire Service is that the US Air Force Fire Service does the same thing the way worldwide. I could have been sent to virtually any USAF Crash Rescue Fire Department in the world and we would do things basically the same way. Now in today’s American Fire Service, we do things differently between shifts, between municipalities, between regions and between states. Bottom line, as the author writes, every person is different and their background is different so “we” need to try and make them successful. Thanks. JM

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