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I once heard my Fire Chief address a class of new recruits and he told them something that has stuck with me. He told them, "Boys, whether I give you a pat on the back or a kick in the a**, it comes from the same place; my heart."

That concept seems to be lost to many. In a day where Political Correctness would be more appropriately called Political Pandering, it seems like the ability correct a person in any other manner then in a stoic, "Spok" like demeanor, is veiwed as out of line. Now before you misunderstand my point, I'm not advocating being abusive. I'm talking about very straight forward, honest critisism when an employee screws up.

A couple of weeks ago I got to hear Ch. Lasky recall a time when a Chief "chewed his butt" one week and the very next week, the same Chief called Lasky back into his office and "chewed him out again." Lasky recalls the experience as a life changing event for the good.

I wonder if some of our marginal employees or mutts would have ended up as a mutt if they would have had someone care enough to rip them a new one when the bad behavior first started and began to become that person's M.O.?

I am also curious to hear from any of you about a time when you can recall that a good ole' fashion "Come to Jesus" meeting had the desired effect?

Maybe I'm a dinosaur, but I know of some times when I got set straight that probably saved my career. But what say you?

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Replies to This Discussion

I agree and I blame Opra and Dr. Phil for the way things are:), I had a come to Jesus talk back in the mid 90s, I was a real screw up and crossed the line with my mouth one too many times. My Chief took me in the office and told me "I know you aspire to be an officer some day, but if you dont change your ways, you will be lucky to be a Firefighter at the end of the year!" Then he gave me 6 shifts off without pay, let me tell you I got the point! That same Chief promoted me to LT and then Capt. He sent me to school, and supported me every step of the way. Now I look back and think that he saved my career by coming down hard on me when I needed it. As a Captain I am the same way, I will always support and protect my guys, but when they need the talk we have it right then and there (not in front of others).
Excellent example Brian. That's my point exactly. Thanks for sharing.
Most excellent brother Dave. I can't wait to share with you all an ethical decision scenario I ran with my officers. It will validate what you have said to a tee Dave.
Hello fellow dinosaurs,
Yes Yes Yes! I can't figure out why bosses stopped the practice of informing their people when their work or performance was either not up to snuf or totally miserable. News flash- If you are a boss, a Lieutenant, a captain, a chief, it is your JOB, your OBLIGATION to set people straight who need it. This modern day, feel good, take what you can from these poor souls does not, and will never work. A strong and pointed discussion in the chiefs office has set many a wondering soul on the path to greatness. If you are a company officer in any fire department in any state in the union, reward and compliment your high achieving folks and rattle the cages of the people who are along for the ride. There are dozens, no, hundreds of ways of getting this done. It depends on who needs the talking to and who is doing the talking. It depends on what is or is not being done and for how long. There are lots of variables here but one point is pretty clear. If you do or say nothing to someone who is performing or behaving badly, you are saying it is OK!
I agree with you all that as a leader, we assume the responsibility to give every member the opportunity to succeed. However, what about the individual who just does not care? No matter how much you coach, teach, lecture, remind and give them the good old chewing of a new one, they just don't change.

I am in that exact situation now and unfortunately, my Chief appears to have taken a special interest and has given him a second chance four times. He has come to us via six other company officers and while I am very proud to say that he has done better here than his previous assignments, he can not work unsupervised. It is like that movie Groundhog Day. We have involved our Deputy Chief and have taken all the correct steps in trying to provide for him. Company drills, one on one's, peer assistance from the other jakes assigned with him, counselling, verbal and written vebral warnings. However his performance has reached it's plateau and when we talk and try to solicit feedback as to how we can better provide for him, the response is a blank stare and a shrug of the shoulders. All this has been brought to the Chief and we get no backing from him.

We have not given up on him and continue to do the job entrusted to us, but sometimes they just like to call themselves firefighter not be one.

No disrespect taken. That is exactly the problem and ties into what you all have said.
Years ago I worked for a small department. The Chief there cared more about us then most of our fathers. You went out of your way not to let him down. No grievences or lawsuits, just straight up talk when you did well AND when you did not. As a very smart nineteen year old tough guy ,I thought this guy was a small time clown. To this day, twenty two years later, he is one of the best guys I ever worked for.
And therein lies a problem. Correct, we all have them and everyone knows them. If the straight forward talk and the progressive disapline at the company level does not work, then a true leader at the top would take the appropriate steps to either follow the company and shift commanders actions and recomendations and get them in line or last course is termination.

I don't feel sending the message that here are the expectations and here is what will happen if you do not meet them is a bad thing. I tell my guys all the time, being friendly and socializing is a great bonus but I am not here to be your pal. I am here to give you 100% and give you what you need to be able to do your job and go home safe at the end of the tour as best I can.

The cancer that is being created by the special kid gloves treatment is that we now have good firefighters questioning why they need to care and why they are held accountable. I know the soultion is to keep on doing what we are doing and like Chief Salka points out acknowledge the folks who are giving their best and also document and address the folks who are not giving their best and wait for an administration change.
Most of my life I have been very straight forward. I try to be kind at the same time I am totally honest. That dosen't always work. I want the truth the whole truth and nothing but, so I assume that is what others deserve. It isn't always easy to tell it like you see it, but I see it as a responsibility and all my Brothers and Sisters are worth it. None of us can fix what we don't know is broke. I use John Salka's thought that you don't manage people you lead them, so if I'm not willing to stand up why would others.
Be safe
I honestly like your response..... :P
I've thought a lot about what you've posted here and one thing that comes to mind is that he is doing better. Maybe the trend will continue.

Though the Chief in this instance has taken a shine to the kid, I would still document everything.

As far as the shoulder shrugs, don't let him get away with it. Expect an answer, if he doesn't give one, you can give him an opportunity to write is answer. If he doesn't do that, he's insubordinate.

Hopefully your department has rules and regulations, if they don't look into your city's personnel policies and see if there is something there you can fall back on.

It is never wrong to hold a grown adult accountable. It is important that you remain very professional during all of it. I will not tell you that this will be easy since your boss likes him, but it may be what it takes to get this kid off of high-center. Make sure to cross your "T"s and dot your "I"s.

Be ready for the fall out from your boss. He will not appriciate being put in a position to take care of this and the repricussions may be more then you want to deal face. So take my advice with caution. Maybe if you bring your boss in on your plan and win him over by selling him a plan to improve the wayward firefighter. If the boss tells you to back off, document it and realize you now have a permenant door holder opener on your crew.

The goal is to make the kid better, as long as your approach emphasises this you should be okay as far as possible legal problems.
Pats and kicks need to be administered fairly. Without favoritism or prejiduce.
Pats and kicks are better used when you have good people to start with, ones that have some form of motivation, dicipline and moral base.
A group may be lopsided and need more kicks.
Some people may need more of one over the other.
Don't single out anybody to be the showtime whipping boy.
Don't let A-kissers, brown-nosers and wonder boy's get away with murder.
Watch out for the pighead who gets a kick, then broods over it for a lengthy time.
Time and a place for public and group kicks. Some kicks are better handled behind closed doors, or around the blind side of the apparatus.
An officers actions, pat or kick, shouldn't be publicly contridicted by another officer. Similiar to kids going to one parent for something when turned down by the first asked parent. Brews division in the house. Part of the makings of a disfuntional family.
I had a calm a-chewing 20+ years ago. I allowed an expensive aircraft generator to roll of a tailgate at work. It got damaged. Supervisor calmly and forcefully said next time it's coming out of your check. Every time and with different companies, I hear Johnnie W's words when setting something expensive down.
Group and public meetings are good for pats. Acknowledge a good effort by a group or team. Don't get too gushy patting an individual in public. May be setting him up for some good razzing and/or others putting him under the microscope.
I've read where some non-US military training,SpecOps type especially, gets good results without the Drill Sgt. show.


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