Ending Workplace Harassment: What Will it Take?
During a recent workshop at the IAFF Human Relations Conference, participants were challenged to come up with real solutions related to factors that enable the continuation of workplace harassment. Through a brainstorming technique, many ideas were generated in a very short period of time. Here are the ideas that came out of that session.
Problem: There is a lack of consequences for inappropriate behavior
Set standards and discipline for inappropriate behavior and enforce equally
Identify rules and policies with specific outcomes
Policies and appropriate consequences- discipline
Leadership training and awareness
Write a rule/policy and enforce the policy when violated. Make the consequence severe enough so the behavior does not continue.
Ensure that the staff understands the policy and the consequences if they do not follow them. Follow through if the policies are breached.
Problem: Leadership is not effective
Implement a training session that involves both company officers and firefighters. This session concentrates on conflict resolution skills, roles of a supervisor and will include actual case studies to show and explain what can happen if rules are broken.
Second level supervisors hold officers accountable. Up and down the chain.
Leaders need to be taught how to lead. It is leadership skills and skills are taught.
Problem: Hazing of new members continues
New day and new time—people are different, need to stop it
Discipline after education for the problem
Each new recruit class has the potential for breaking the cycle
Control your influence and your company by not participating
Educate members on the risks of hazing. Stop the cycle of abuse.
Develop a no hazing policy.
Problem: If you say something bothers you, people do it more.
Advise them that you are serious and if it does not stop you will be forced to handle it at the next level, i.e., advise management, possible discipline
People should have the right to say things bother them, so actions can take place to make it stop
Go to the person again and ask them not to do it anymore and if so, I would take it farther
Problem: People violate cultural norms (unwritten rules)
Write down unwritten rules. Explain how offensive/destructive they can be
Talk to each other, determine boundaries
Diversity training at HR conferences
Problem: Leaders model inappropriate behavior
Control your behavior and point out where the officer has bad behavior
Administration needs to teach what a successful leader means
Training and discipline if training is violated
Specific training for company officers and managers
Discipline from the top down. Leaders are responsible for the right behavior
Have the leaders teach others about department policies, procedures and expectations
Leaders must be trained often—mandated
Training for department officers
Problem: Culture encourages pushing limits and boundaries
Senior members and officers “call out” inappropriate behavior right away to squash the behavior
Identify and educate personnel on appropriate boundaries/limits
Speak up when something bothers you the first time
Having officers understand and use appropriate “getting to know you” criteria
Problem: Testing boundaries tends to escalate behavior
Encourage early intervention via training/education
Maybe we can’t change this quickly. Perhaps encourage our younger members to change this as they grow in their career.
Find non-threatening ways to test boundaries
Officer training that encourages fair treatment of each other
Problem: Probationary firefighters are not treated as adults.
Training and education for managers as well as crew members, then all will know what is acceptable or not.
Treat all firefighters the same as people.
Leadership needs to educate the appropriate personnel.
Give clear and concise expectations to probies and give them a buddy/mentor to discuss issues with.
Create a policy about hazing—zero tolerance
Standardize recruit training, use preceptors
Problem: Workplace looks like home and family.
But at home we don’t intentionally hurt each other.
Leaders/officers need to remind the crew that they are at work periodically
As a company officer, develop and administer boundaries