Labor Day Conflict

I wasn't going to post today, because I am taking a day off to relax and be thankful for having meaningful work that is compensated by acceptable work conditions, decent pay and benefits.  That's what today is supposed to be about, right?  But as I went through my morning rounds, I saw something on conflict that got my attention.  I direct you to our friends at the FireGeezer site, for my official Conflict of the Day (COD, because a lot of times, when conflict gets old, it starts to become stinky and annoying and people just want it to go away).

In Croydon, NH, the fire chief ousted the Ladies' Auxiliary from their department property.  I don't know what occurred to that point that facilitated this kind of intractability, but it is apparent that dysfunction is present.  If there weren't, why such a drastic measure?  As always, I want you to see that I'm not taking sides or pointing fingers.  What I want you to do is look at the situation and try to put yourself in the shoes of those on both sides.

Why would the chief take such an action that was sure to get a fair amount of press coverage, likely negative?  Has the situation become that untenable, or is ego to play? (Don't know, just considering possibilities). Or conversely, what is going on in the Auxiliary that they can't see that their actions are having a negative effect on department operations?  Or are they unwilling to work with those who are in a leadership role to benefit the WHOLE organization?  Or again, is ego to blame?

This is a classic example of two entities that likely need the overall organization to be healthy and they likely understand the overarching mission of the organization to be service to the community, but are at an impasse as to how to deliver that service and to maintain cooperation with the conflicting means of getting there.  You happen to see how we should do this in THIS way; I happen to see how to get there THAT way.  Get it?

There are very likely means to get us both there and hopefully, if we can put the ego of the lead negotiators aside, we can get to the essence of the argument.  What can we do TOGETHER to get us to making some concessions that help us meet our SHARED values? Do we need more communication?  Do we need more space?  Do we have individuals who refuse to cooperate because they have a pissing match going on? (I'm aware that the analogy may be lost due to certain factors, but I liked that it illustrated the problem. Bear with me, there).

Labor Day in the United States was meant to celebrate "strength and esprit de corps of the trade and labor organizations", according to the U.S. Department of Labor's webpage.  If you look back on the reason why labor unions were created, it was largely because of the exploitation of workers to the benefit of management, something that at least in our nation, has been largely eradicated as a result of the labor unions, but there are still pockets of conflict there as well.  In fact, there are arguments today that perhaps the pendulum has swung so far toward favoring unions that decision-making, especially in hard, financial situations, has favored "Labor" to the detriment of the entire situation.  I'm afraid I don't entirely buy that, but I concede that this is a perception.

When individuals choose to advance their personal values over the needs of the whole, they lose track with the reality that the organization is an organism which has many parts and systems.  If any of those parts fails due to the neglect or lack of community with the whole, then the whole perishes.  You can't kill off a part to your benefit if you expect the whole organization to keep producing, and yet, it continues, mostly because of greed, selfishness, and ego.

On this Labor Day, be insightful, look at how you present your case, and understand that conflict has more than one side.  In most cases, intractability is self-inflicted. Be the bigger person and reach out; solve your problems, stop looking at the trees and see the forest.

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Michael "Mick" Mayers

Battalion Chief with Hilton Head Island (SC) Fire and Rescue and an Emergency Response Coordinator with the United States Department of Health and Human Services’ National Disaster Medical System Incident Response Coordination Team.

DISCLAIMER

Although I am affiliated or employed by certain entities, I in no way speak in this forum or others on behalf of those entities unless I have specifically stated such. Any implication otherwise is doing so contrary to my agreements with those entities. The result is that the observations and opinions by myself or on behalf of Firehouse Zen are not sanctioned by any other entity other than Graffiti Train Sherpa Publications and are protected by the copyright laws of the United States of America.

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