In this next installment of Our Own Worst Enemies, I tackle pride and perception.
But first, I want to make a confession. I am guilty of almost all of the behaviors I have railed against. I openly and freely admit it, and to all that I have subjected my anger to, I'm sorry. Not an excuse, but it's hard to separate the anger directed towards one's self and not have it spill over to others. When the atmosphere you're in is toxic, and there's no known PPE against it, it takes maturity and self-realization to change the behavior. I'm a work in progress. Every day.
Back to our story.
I came to a realization recently that pride is a problem. While we preach to members that we must have pride in what we do, be proud of our organizations, even use the premise in our mottos, we also expect, often without saying, for the same audience to take that pride and stuff it down deep inside. Don't outwardly show it, don't acknowledge it, don't expect it to be recognized, be it publically or privately.
And do we teach our members, especially the young ones, all full of good intentions, any of these "rules". No- we just expect them to know it, or to figure it out once they suffer the pins and needles of violating them. Another set of unwritten rules that go by the "That's how we did it when I came in."
So why must we make each other miserable, and shun positive attitudes, smiles and cooperation? And why would someone not steeped in this "tradition" want to stay in an organization with this atmosphere, on top of the hundreds of hours of training, increasing false alarm runs and spectre of injury or possibly worse in a responsibility for nothing.
Yes, those who do it in spite of those conditions are a dying breed. We need to stop complaining that the breed is dying and evolve. Take an active role in fostering an attitude of success. Communicating equally with all members, and understanding that judging members against themselves is counter-productive and destructive.
So what do we need to change?
Find better outlets for acts of gratitude for good work. Instead of punishing incorrect or incomplete work, foster an atmosphere where teaching is about sharing knowledge, instead of showing others how much you know and they don't. Be kind. The goal is a better organization to serve your community. Not who has the best equipment, most calls, most aggressive tactics. Everyone Comes Home is not a cop-out, it's an understanding that we all have families that need us, communities that need us, and that our actions must take the cost of the actions in consideration when deciding the path to finishing the task. It's empathy, plain and simple.
If we preach pride in work and company, then let's not punish for showing it. Let's be appreciative when the public recognizes us for any reason, be it large or small, and understanding when they don't. Don't look at members and thing "So and so is not exactly like me, so let's get rid of them." If we all had to be like someone else wants us to be, who would we end up? Certainly not the individuals we are. And most of us would never be forced into changing ourselves to satisfy another, outside of marriage maybe. Even in marriage/relationships, if you've ever heard or uttered "Stop trying to change me.", think about that when you make a quick judgement of another member and ask yourself how you'd respond. Evaluate members on a consistent basis, on the quality of work done for the community. Not yourself, or what they do for others you may not like. Give input personally and privately, both positive and negative. And don't dwell on how someone dealt with you so many years ago. It's time to change.
The fireground is not the only place we need to train and learn on. We need to know more about relationships, interpersonal communications and listening. We need to be better humans.
Empathy is not a character flaw.