February 2018 Issue Number 211
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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I recently sat in on a committee meeting among a national group that is working to develop training to address the problem of bullying in the fire service. One of the ideas discussed was to create a video that would serve as a training solution and could be distributed nationally. Some in the group favored this approach; others were not so sure.
In most organizations, including emergency services agencies, training is increasingly something that a person does through video resources or online platforms. Sometimes these training formats encourage group participation, but often they are utilized alone. While this model can work well for many topics, and also can be more efficient and convenient, it is not a recipe for success for subjects that are nuanced and require discussion.
Bullying is one of those topics. Bullying is not a technical subject like hydraulics or fire codes. Just defining bullying would be a challenge for most groups. Do practical jokes constitute bullying? What about hazing? Are there degrees of bullying, or is it an all-or-nothing proposition? And how should individuals respond if they or someone else are being bullied? What additional responsibilities do officers have in this area?
All of these questions are best answered in a group environment where discussion is encouraged and real case studies are considered. Skilled facilitation is a must. Exercises need to be designed so no one can hide out, but also managed so no individual feels singled out or targeted.
This is the main reason why face-to-face training works best for subjects like bullying. But there is another reason. Getting people together in one room is logistically difficult. Time and resources are required to do it. When a fire department makes that commitment, there is a clear subtext that says: This training is important. Pay attention.
In an era where "FaceTime" is a phone app for virtual contact, and young people are growing up with constant access to one another through texts and apps, but very little in person, showing up and having the conversation on difficult topics is more important than ever.