The Art of Dealing with Negativity in the Fire Service

By William Greenwood, NFPA 1041 Fire Instructor III and Owner of FETC Services

I started out as a volunteer firefighter and have worked extensively with various volunteer and paid fire departments throughout New England. Over my 23 years in the fire service, I’ve noticed we all have some sort of negativity in our organizations regardless of volunteer or paid status. Some more than others …

Bill Greenwood
William Greenwood presents “The Art of Dealing with Negativity in the Fire Service” at the FASNY Convention’s Sixth Annual Training Series August 21.

Have you ever asked yourself, “What was that guy thinking?” If you have, then how well do you really know the person you are responsible for?

There are ways to prepare firefighters and fire officers for dealing with difficult members of your department. We are not talking about tangible things that our members have, own or like to do.

There are more abstract things to consider when practicing the art of dealing with negativity.

The main reason people become disassociated or leave a volunteer fire department is because they were never engaged. The buzzword for professional fire service leadership is “engagement.” Without engagement, you as a leader will be constantly battling the negative side of the house.

When problems (small or large) are not identified and addressed quickly, they turn into bigger problems down the road.

You need to know what interpersonal dynamic strategies will be most effective in dealing with your personnel. When a leader in a service delivery model understands what makes a person tick, he or she can easily implement strategies that not only increase positively reinforced communications, but ultimately gain greater production on the fireground.

The key is having the knowledge and proper tools in your “leadership toolbox” to pull from. Effective problem solving starts with listening more and speaking less. The key to listening is identifying the root cause of an undesirable problem.

Through understanding the different types of personalities embedded within an organization, we can focus on the identified compensating behavior for behavioral modification.

The fire service does a great job preparing firefighters to be firefighters. The “Art of Dealing with Negativity” is about training firefighters to become better leaders.

William Greenwood, a senior staff instructor for the New Hampshire Fire Academy, owner of FETC Services and host of “Tap the Box” on Fire Engineering Magazine Talk Radio, will present “The Art of Dealing with Negativity in the Fire Service” at the FASNY Convention’s Sixth Annual Training Series August 21.