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How firefighter morale impacts performance

There is a clear, distinct connection between firefighter morale and firefighter performance; improving the former will improve the latter

By Rick Markley, FR1 Editor-in-chief

Fire department morale, what's the big deal? It's not like firefighters are a bunch of hippies who sit around holding hands and singing songs about the many virtues of pine trees and spotted owls.

Actually, if you are going to lead a fire department you need your firefighters to perform at their peak — and performance is directly tied to morale. Yes, there's empirical research to back that up.

At the International Association of Fire Chiefs' FRI conference next month, Lt. Rommie Duckworth will get into the weeds of why morale is important and how fire chiefs can improve it. His presentation, "Improving Morale: Simple Steps to Make Work a Better Place" will be held Aug. 13 at 10:30 a.m. Early registration discount runs through July 15.

By the numbers
According to a Gallup poll, only 33 percent of workers identified themselves as "engaged." Consequently, 49 percent were non-engaged and 18 percent were disengaged. What's more, Forbes found that the companies with the top 10 percent employee engagement outperformed their competition by 72 percent.

And on the fireground, the competition is death and injury.

In his presentation, Lt. Duckworth will detail the top 10 things that attract employees — including money, time off and learning opportunities. He'll also look at the seven reasons employees stay and the eight reasons they are engaged — relationship with supervisor and fire department reputation land on both lists.

Lt. Duckworth says the top three things a chief can provide to ensure firefighters' engagement is autonomy, mastery and purpose.

By that he means firefighters need the freedom to work on what interests them most and the opportunity to develop a level of mastery over those interests. It is also critical that firefighters feel a sense that what they do matters in the grand scheme.

A better environment
Another area Lt. Duckworth will focus on is the need for chiefs to establish a clear vision, concise expectations and fairly meted out discipline.

He will also explore the importance of creating an environment of camaraderie, or brotherhood, and ways to build that through recognitions, celebrations and family involvement.

Lt. Duckworth will delve into the morale killers, how to recognize them and how to head them off at the pass. Some of those morale-killing attitudes are firefighters who are "retired on duty" and the always-despondent "Eeyores."

Finally, he'll detail how to use "negativity Judo" — a communication tactic that let's you use the firefighter's energy to deflect negativity and execute a move that leaves the situation positive, encouraging and empathetic.

And if all that sounds a little too hippie-dippy, remember: strong firefighter morale equals a strong fire department. 

The comments below are member-generated and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of or its staff. If you cannot see comments, try disabling privacy and ad blocking plugins in your browser. All comments must comply with our Member Commenting Policy.
Jim Venturo Jim Venturo Wednesday, July 02, 2014 1:47:18 PM Good article but its a job and you just got to do it , its not always fun and its that for letter word called work
Michael Ozment Michael Ozment Thursday, July 03, 2014 12:26:34 PM I agree that it is just a job, but it is a job that can leave one with less vitality than our counter parts (the private sector) after only a few years of service, or even just one bad day. That's why it is important for firefighters to feel like what they do matters to the public.
Xing Allofme Xing Allofme Monday, September 22, 2014 8:05:15 PM we provide all products about mineral processing and solutions

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