July 2017 Issue Number 204
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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Fire-Rescue International will be held July 26-29 in Charlotte, NC.
Now available! On
the Line: Women Firefighters Tell Their Stories by Linda
F. Willing. This book features interviews with over 35 women
firefighters from the United States and Canada. The book is available
from major online booksellers, and signed copies may be ordered through this website.
The "Boys Will Be Boys" Excuse
A former firefighter has filed a lawsuit against her department, alleging pervasive harassment. Her complaint details incidents where firefighters used racial, ethnic, and sexual slurs, openly viewed and commented on pornography in the station, deliberately exposed their genitals to the plaintiff, and consistently demeaned women on the job.
When the woman reported this behavior to her captain, he dismissed it by saying that the other firefighters were just being "immature."
During a family night event for new recruits, a fire captain from a different department told the families that their relatives were likely to be subjected to "some practical jokes" that some might see as hazing or bullying. He went on to say that "Millennials have thin skin," and "boys will be boys."
One of the parents present wrote a letter of complaint to the fire chief, saying she was "shocked and appalled" at the "callous comments" made by a department head, especially in light of a recent firefighter's suicide that might have been linked to bullying at work.
This is 2017. These are large, respected fire departments. Yet still people within these organizations felt it appropriate to use the "boys will be boys" excuse for inappropriate conduct.
Using this excuse not only allows bad practice to continue with impunity. It also demeans the men within the department who also condemn this bad behavior, and undermines the professional reputation not only of these individual fire departments, but the fire service generally.
It is people in leadership roles who are enabling this behavior to continue. And only those in leadership roles can make it stop.
The fire service should not be based on a standard of "boys." The fire service needs real men (and women) in these critical roles.
Sources: WUSA, May 5, 2017 and WSET, June 5, 2107