Updated: Jul 27, 2018
Ten years have quickly passed for me working in the fire service. As that time goes by, I have found myself growing bitter at the lack of initiative and increasingly negative and stifling environment that surrounds me. People are complaining about everything and anything they can, without offering solutions. The negativity is everywhere and goes unchecked more often than not. It can be extremely difficult to keep a positive attitude in such a negative environment. The organization and its members suffer for it in numerous ways.
I do what I can to keep focused on the fact that I am in control of my attitude. I try my best to remain positive and remember why I am here in the first place. I'm not perfect, but I focus on the positive and have tried to objectively identify the source of contention. I began to try to understand WHY the problems existed, which makes it possible to do something about it. I started writing down my observations;
- Lack of safety in openly addressing and discussing issues with crew mates which led to unresolved issues (poor communication and lack of trust)
- Lots and lots of gossip (rampant undermining)
- Lack of commitment to a positive team dynamic (lack of shared purpose)
- Negligent and unsafe practices going unchecked (sanctioned incompetence)
I realized that the problems that I face aren’t exclusive to the fire service, they are everywhere, to some degree. One thing became clear, the problems that I observed can be boiled down to a general lack of accountability. No one is owning up to their actions, or lack thereof. This lack of accountability has passively allowed a dangerous attitude of irresponsibility that is propagated by ego. An environment of backbiting, mistrust, and entitlement has been running rampant and it’s breaking down relationships, morale, and organizational integrity. Because of this, the members are suffering and as a result, our customers (the people we serve) are suffering.
It’s time to shake off this legacy of apathy, look in the mirror, identify those things holding our organizations back, and commit to positive change. This can be extremely difficult (especially within the fire service; if there’s two things firefighters hate, it’s change, and the way things are). However, in order to achieve greatness within any organization and create an environment where people are excited to come to work, we must be willing to have hard conversations. It’s time to be willing to make positive changes, take accountability whether we are a part of the problem OR the solution, and OWN IT!
Over the next several weeks I will be addressing what can be done to battle those problems I identified (listed above). Also, I'd like to hear from you in regards to challenges you or your organization have faced, and how you dealt with them. We're all in this together, let's be a part of the solution and not the problem. Let's OWN IT!