This is an area that lends itself quite well to the twin concepts of coaching and mentoring. It would be my suggestion that every new member be assigned a veteran to mentor them as they move through their probationary period. While there may be some organizations that practice this proactive approach to develop personnel, far too many leave the new person to their own devices.
How long does it take the newcomer to your fire department to figure out that no one likes them? In some cases, the atmosphere is quickly poisoned and the person is run off. In other cases, the newcomer is allowed to blend smoothly into their new world.
My research indicates that people tend to stay with those undertakings that satisfy their needs. Likewise, people tend to abandon those activities that do not meet their needs or make them happy. It is critical for your organization to create an ethical approach to proactively encouraging your new members. Treat each as though they were a member of you family, for that is in fact what they have become. They are now a part of your fire department family.
How long would you have stayed with your fire department if you had not been made to feel welcome? I am not saying that every new person will accept your offer of kindness and friendship, for you see some people really are loners. What I am suggesting is that each of you must become an active part of the fire department when it comes to bringing the new member into the organization.
You will be able to tell which way it is going to go during the first couple of months. Some people never do make the connection. These are the people who were not meant to be members of your organization. However, you should only arrive at this awareness after a suitable period of coaching, mentoring and trying to understand these new folks.
Even though I have been an active member of the fire service in a variety of situations and positions for a long time now, I still get a bit uptight when I enter a new situation. I have found that if I keep a friendly spirit and a smile on my face, things will work out better.
It is simple. Be nice to people and treat them as you would like to be treated. This is simply another version of the Golden Rule. That is what I have to offer to you this week.
As my wife works her way back to the world of the working, I will do all in my power to be supportive and nurturing. Sometimes she accepts my help with a smile. At other times she tells me flat out to let her do things herself.
Much like the shifting of a manual transmission, there will be times when the shift is clean and times when the gears grind. As you work to bring new people into your organization, please understand that it will not always be a smooth transition, either for you, the long-time member, or the new member.
Just remember to be nice, answer questions with a smile on your face, and reach out to bring the new member onboard with a friendly spirit. Their feelings of unease will pass and you will have created a valued new member of your fire department family. I promise that it will be worth the effort.