I think it is probably safe to say that no one reading this likes conflict. For the most part it is in our nature to avoid confrontation if we can. However, as a company officer you don’t get the luxury of avoidance. You must deal with issues as they arise or small problems will lead to big problems. There are many ways to deal with conflict in your firehouse, but I quickly want to discuss the two key elements that are a part of every conversation, every counseling, every conflict.
Those two key elements are the issue and the relationship.
The issue or the problem can come in so many forms. Refuses to train, attitude problems, performance issues, professional appearance etc. These must be dealt with for the benefit of the individual and the overall benefit of the team. Members of your firehouse trust in you to deal with these issues and have a certain level of accountability. Many times, members can easily spot when a lack of accountability exists and when a company officer is refusing to address something simply because it is easier to look the other way. You get paid to be a leader. You get paid to have those difficult conversations. I am sure you can recall in your mind right now many problems that were left to fester and spiraled out of control due to lack of interruption on the part of a company officer. So, let’s look at the other element that in my experience makes it easier to tackle the problem and have that difficult conversation, the relationship.
The relationship you have will play a major role in the outcome of this difficult conversation. I have found that when an officer takes the time to build a relationship with the members in their firehouse, it can make conflict resolution more reachable. Building a relationship on trust and mutual respect will pay dividends. I can recall having some conversations that were very challenging. Frankly, I thought they were going to go poorly, but because I took the time to build a relationship I came from a place of genuine concern. The person on the other side of the conversation knew I had their best interest in mind because I demonstrate that every day. It wasn’t just a hollow conversation where stone faced robotic supervisor meets with employee. It was a conversation centered around concern, expectations, and results. It was a conversation that was driven towards team values and sense of purpose.
We can get way down in the weeds of conflict resolution, but I leave you with this. If you find yourself asking why you can’t seem to find resolution, ask yourself if you have tried to genuinely build relationships in your firehouse. A strong relationship can make those difficult conversations not so difficult.