by Frank Myers
Originally published in MultiBriefs
We are somewhat fortunate in the fire service because we can transfer and/or bid to go to another station. Over time you can get used to how a person likes to "run" their department, or in my case, the station.
A good supervisor with good leadership and management skills will adapt and be reasonable. After all, they need to gain the respect of their subordinates.
Initially it may seem like the new supervisor is "not" a good fit. We need to try to give that person a chance for a little while (they didn’t make it to where they are without having some good attributes). We need to get used to them and see if working with them is "miserable" or "reasonable." It may not be as bad as you initially thought.
I remember that when a new captain (known as the shift commander) was transferred into the station, the very first day during morning meeting, they would explain to you what they expected from the crew. Each one had their "pet peeves." Within reason, it was expected to try to make the captain "happy."
For the most part, if we did what was asked of us, along with our other routine chores/details, it was smooth sailing. A good supervisor will allow you to speak about your routines and those of your crew.
Some change is accepted, but not total disruption. Each station/department has their own unique personality. A good supervisor should not "try to fix what is not broken." Introducing innovative ideas can be beneficial, though.
There are times when certain events have gotten out of hand, among the crews, the station or individuals. A supervisor with high established character may be assigned to a station/department that has become “out of hand.”
The crew can either accept it and acknowledge their mistakes or move on. What is needed is to "run a tight ship" from here on out!
I always appreciated a supervisor with structure and routine. The fire service in general is a "semi-military" organization. Therefore, a firefighter is trained and knows that there are always certain "protocols" to be followed (however, not to the extent of active military soldiers).
Remember, the fire service is unique because we have a very vertical type of structure. In other words, supervisors have few people (crews) under them. The ratio is usually 1 to 3 or 4. This is unlike, for example, manufacturing jobs where the supervisor is responsible for 8-12 subordinates at a time.
The shift commander has their crew and the others that man the other apparatus in the station. Therefore, it is important to be on the same page and get along because it is a more "intimate" working environment.
This is especially true since we spend approximately one-third of our lives with these people because of shift work (12/16/24 hours at a time depending on your department). We become more like "family."
I personally never cared for the laissez-faire (a policy or attitude of letting things take their own course, without interfering) type of supervisor. In the beginning of a new supervisory position, it may be used to observe the co-workers/subordinates.
But after a while, something needs to be said to put some sort of structure/routine into the work environment. If this style continues, things can run amok. After all, we are human and human nature has its faults. Give us an inch and we will take a mile in some cases!
One of the phrases I remembered when studying for promotion was that you can tell how well a supervisor does their job by observing how well their department runs in their absence. Therefore, when a supervisor conveys a good work ethic and makes clear what needs to be done, this work ethic will continue because it has become routine and habit. Plus, within the subgroup, there is probably a leader that is respected (could be delegated by the supervisor or being groomed), who shows inherent “leadership” qualities.
There are many reasons why the previous supervisor may have vacated — a better position, opportunity for growth, more responsibility or less responsibility, pay, etc. Many times it is due to promotion.
Let us not forget who made the supervisor "shine" in ways that caught the attention of "upper management" and got them recognition — their subordinates. A good supervisor will remember this for future endeavors or projects or when seeking good people to assist them. It can "open doors" in one’s career.
With time, you will get to know what management style you like and adapt those qualities to develop your own work ethic. Believe it or not, it will get noticed!