Facilitating high morale in tough economic times is a real challenge for any fire service organization. There have been common themes in what hurts morale in fire departments. Take a look at these top morale boosters and see if your department needs some improvement in any of these areas.
- Discipline. Instead of dealing with disciplinary issues, they often get brushed under the rug, which kills morale as other firefighters wonder why they put in so much effort to do a great job. Standards must be set and everyone must be held accountable for those standards. Proper mentoring, training and coaching will alleviate the need for a lot of discipline, but there is always going to be someone who pushes the limits and messes up. That person needs to be disciplined.
- Communication & Transparency. The communication issue is prevalent in every fire service organization. There is a massive hoarding of information going on. While all information cannot be shared, you can certainly be as transparent as possible and communicate effectively as to why certain information cannot be shared. Information that can be shared needs to free-flow throughout the chain of command.
- Stronger Input. Many chiefs wonder why they cannot get input for certain policies, change, missions or visions. Firefighters will always find it very challenging to participate if they weren’t allowed proper time for input.
- Sense of Integrity. Morale will take a rapid decline when integrity is breached. Always follow through with commitments! Broken promises not only deteriorate morale, but they also set up a pattern of distrust among the firefighters. If you ever do breach integrity, take full responsibility for it, show humility and demonstrate a long pattern of changed behavior.
- Accountability. It’s frustrating for firefighters to be held accountable to a certain standard, and then watch management violate those standards with zero accountability. The chain of command must make themselves just as accountable.
- Passion, Humor & Fun. Firefighters want leaders who show passion and purpose for their jobs and in the process, also have some fun. This will also help prevent burnout, as those who focus on all the things that are wrong with their jobs miss the opportunities to see all the things that are right. This type of negativity will hurt morale.
- Mentors & Role Models. Firefighters expect strong mentorship. Many firefighters feel there is a lack of strong role-model examples in their department and a lack of leaders who recognize what true leadership really is.
Notice areas where improvement can be made and consider doing anonymous surveys so firefighters can take an active role in how this can be done. Those closest to the problems will always have the best solutions. Take their input seriously and make the changes necessary to improve morale.
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