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  1. #1
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    Default When is it OK to remove problem volunteers?

    Anyone have experience with "trouble" volunteers? When is it acceptable to ask a volunteer firefighter that causes constant morale problems and negativity to leave? I have 2 now that always bitch and moan about everything, backstab and cause others to not want to be around. Any thoughts? sponge60@yahoo.com


  2. #2
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    Sometimes a chat with them telling them that no one wants to work with you because of this situation works.

    What are your procedures under bylaws and/or SOP?

    You've got to take a stand or the members will feel you let them down and moral will sink lower.
    It's only my opinion. I do not speak for any group or organization I belong to or associate with or people I know - especially my employer. If you like it, we can share it, you don't have to give me credit. If you don't, we are allowed to disagree too (but be ready to be challenged, you may be on to something I'm not). That's what makes America great!

  3. #3
    Forum Member FGFD43's Avatar
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    Our department by-laws/SOGs allow for a member to be voted out by a 2/3s majority of the membership. If a member is voted out, he can't see it as personal issue between himself and the leadership. This has worked for us.
    Kevin Sink
    Fair Grove Fire Dept.
    Thomasville, NC USA
    kevinsink@northstate.net

  4. #4
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    I haven't run into problems with FF's, but have had plenty of this at work.

    Mongo is right. You must take care of the problem or the rest of the crew will become even more dissatisfied.

    Most of the time, a little one-on-one discussion with the problem causer will clear things up. Many times they don't even realize they are causing a problem.

    If that doesn't work, a formal, written warning is in order. If that still doesn't work, it is time to get rid of them.

    In a perfect world, this type of procedure should be in your by-laws, policies, or SOPs. That way the VFD has some cover if the member brings this into a legal setting.

    It is also important to document all disciplinary actions, including the simple, one-on-one chat. This documentation should be put kept in a safe place so that if the problem causer takes this to a legal proceeding, you have all of the pertinent information. Thay way you don't have to rely on your memory.

    Just my thoughts. Stay safe.

    Joe

  5. #5
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    Our Fire Department follows the guidelines of the Town and most businesses -
    1. Discuss the problem with the individual and define your expectations
    2. If Step 1 does not work discuss the problem with the individual and note in the personnel file as a verbal warning.
    3. If Step 2 does not work repeat #2 but have the individual sign a documented verbal warning.
    4. Should Step 3 not work give the individual a suspension and/or fine.
    5. When all else fails - FIRE the volunteer

    This is a long process, but will hold up in court.

    Good luck

  6. #6
    Forum Member RyanEMVFD's Avatar
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    I have also found that having another officer sit in the office while you are talking to the problem maker works to your advantage. that way that person can't say that you said something different then what you actually said.
    NREMT-P\ Reserve Volunteer Firefighter\Reserve Police Officer
    IACOJ Attack

    Experts built the Titanic, amateurs built the Ark.

  7. #7
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    We provide for removal in our by-laws. Complaints are submitted to an advisory board of three firefighters and two officers. The firefighters elect their members and the Chief appoints officers, all for two year terms.

    Counselling by an officer is normally the first step and then any member can refer the matter to the advisory board if the problem is not resolved. The board investigates the complaint and takes the appropiate action ranging from written counselling/reprimand, suspension or dismissal. We have no monetary penalties.

  8. #8
    MembersZone Subscriber NCRSQ751's Avatar
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    We have a clause for 'conduct unbecoming a member' in our rules and regulations. This allows innapropriate conduct to be handled with discipline:

    1st offense - verbal warning (documented)
    2nd offense - written warning
    3rd offense - 30-day suspension
    Any subsequent offense of the same nature = dismissal from the department.

    We haven't had to use it yet, trouble usually weeds itself out, but I would in a heartbeat. People that are that negative bring down the whole organization. They will not just be negative to your members, they will run their mouths outside the organization as well. This could prevent applications from coming in or invitations to outside trainings etc. Handle your problem ASAP or it will only get larger!
    Susan Lounsbury
    Winston-Salem Rescue Squad
    Griffith Volunteer FD

  9. #9
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    We had the same problem with a few.We handled ours through our by laws and evicted the trouble.We had one guy tourque us off so bad we were going to do it old school style you know out back with rubber hoses and bars of soap wrapped in a towel .But the problems were solved and as posted before,stop it NOW or it will get out of hand and drive members away.Stay safe.

  10. #10
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    [quote]Originally posted by NCRSQ751:
    We have a clause for 'conduct unbecoming a member' in our rules and regulations. This allows innapropriate conduct to be handled with discipline:

    1st offense - verbal warning (documented)
    2nd offense - written warning
    3rd offense - 30-day suspension
    Any subsequent offense of the same nature = dismissal from the department.

    We haven't had to use it yet, trouble usually weeds itself out, but I would in a heartbeat. People that are that negative bring down the whole organization. They will not just be negative to your members, they will run their mouths outside the organization as well. This could prevent applications from coming in or invitations to outside trainings etc. Handle your problem ASAP or it will only get larger!




    This is the best one I've seen yet...It gives options and a chance for the "problem child/children" to get themselves straight
    ***The Opinions expressed here are strictly my own and do not reflect those of the Department to which I am a Member ! ***

    Stratford Fire Co. # 1.."Any Job ~ Any Place ~ Any Time"

    Check us Out www.stratfordfire.com

  11. #11
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    NCRSQ751 is right. We all know what it's like to deal with "problem children". It can't be tolerated in a volunteer setting. No one in your department should be allowed to dampen morale, not even for a minute. It's too easy for a volunteer to become discouraged by the words and actions of another and turn in their gear. My department, and I'm sure most others, can't afford that. If you don't yet have a policy for conduct in place, I'd suggest doing it soon. In the mean time you need to document what goes on with the individual. If you are in a chief officer's position, have others document what you don't see. Even the little things can prove useful when it comes time to confront the problem child. Trust me..

    [ 12-09-2001: Message edited by: jab1415 ]

    J. Adam Berry
    Deputy Chief
    Griffith Fire Department

  12. #12
    MembersZone Subscriber CHIEF500's Avatar
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    After you become a member you are on Chief's probation the first year. If you don't complete the required training, work sessions, clean ups, drill sessions or you are a morale problem you can and will be dismissed from the department. It's part of the contract you sign becomming a memmber. If there is a conflict in scheduling you can't make the required items your Chief's probation can be extended.

  13. #13
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    On my dept our policy is that when brought on to the dept your application is discussed at the executive level (Cheif & Capt's) then brought to the membership for discussion. Who knows this guy/gal and what kind of input would you have about the candidate. Usually some one knows him/her from the community. Good or bad charector
    commitment etc. If sucessful (few arent) then you are brought on for a 6 month probationary period. 1st 3 months you attend weekly practices (as all do). Then after 3 mos you are given a radio (pager) and then you are able to respond to calls and to see how you handle yourself @ calls and on scene etc. At the end of the 6 month probation period your candacy is discussed (w/o you present)so people can discuss if there were any issues with attendance, personality conflicts, conduct... any thing pertinant to your membership. Then is put to a secret ballot of the membership. The reason for the secret ballot is so that you can vote comfortably how you wish. If you are a good "fit" you are informed (either way) of the results by the chief. In my 13 yrs I can only remember about 3 people that didnt make the vote. One exremely poor fit and the rest couldnt be bothered to show up.
    SIDE NOTE:
    We had one guy make the vote and seemed like a good fit for the next 6 mos or so. Then things went sour, started w/ extremly poor conduct at an xmas party. In the mean time he had managed to get a job in the mayors office w/a direct line to the mayors ear. Very delicate situation for about 6 more months. The saving grace was he developed a habit of making enemies and burning bridges. He ended up getting a job 1000 miles away where no one knew him and was gone all together. Phew!

  14. #14
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    many of the above suggestions/thoughts are valid. Bottom line- our SOP's state you must not bring dishonor among your peers. It's a very simple catch-all

  15. #15
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    Theres a reason behind this behavior. What that reason is lies behind these members motivation for being in the fire dept. Did they join because they thought it was a great place to hang out on a friday night? Was it for the need for belonging to a group? or did they join for the need to be a fireman and somehow become disillusioned with the way the company treated them or the way the dept was run? The bottom line here is, before you chuck them out for being malcontents sit down with them, find out why they do what they do, and maybe you will find out not only why they have chosen to be disruptive but that you are able to identify a problem in you orginization that can be corrected. On the other hand it is not outside the realm of possibilites that they are just simply dirtbags! In this cse dicipline according to your Dept SOP's.
    Stay safe----
    "Never trust a smiling dog"
    Delaware F.O.O.L. FTM-PTB-EGH

  16. #16
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    I agree with what has been said here. The first thing to do is talk to this person/persons and find out what their problem is. You may find out that they have issues outside of the department that are having the negative attitude affect on them. Meeting with them and having another officer with you will aid you in any future questions as to what was said or discussed but will also show that you are not alone in your perception of them being a problem. Be prepared to give them examples of the behavior that you find inappropriate or bad for morale. Then take it a step further and give them examples as to the behavior you expect out of them.

    Strong, positive morale is a powerful emotion that can create an synergy within an organization that can not be matched by any other emotion. However, low morale can spread like a disease and is difficult to overcome. You must detect it early as you have, now stop it. Good luck.
    Training with spirit, serving with pride

    Captain, Rufer

    The above opinion is my own and should not be interpeted as the opinion of any organization in which I am affiliated with.

  17. #17
    Member Baker FF/PM's Avatar
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    Definetly talk to them and try and work it out. However, if their attitude doesn't change you really need to consider that it is better to lose one or two rather than the "problem child" causing all the others to quit. People like this only make it harder on volunteer departments when it comes to retention and recruitment in a day when it is already hard to accomplish these. Just remember though, you are not alone, there is people like this in every department, paid or unpaid.
    I would...but no!

  18. #18
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    First, I must say that many of the responses I have read are very good and I agree with them.

    This is a problem that exists across the country in both volunteer and career departments. I have 27+ years in the fire service and have seen about, or at least I think, every type of morale problem that you can experience. As many have stated I think you need to have provisions in you department guidelines to allow the chain of command to work. This would allow the subordnate officers to deal with the situation first. It is my opinion that the Chief should be the last to deal with this type of problem. He has to much other business to tend too. Many volunteer departments that I have either been involved with or know and have discussed simular situations with run into a common problem, "you can't fire a volunteer" BULL HOCKEY!!! If the individuals(s) are a problem, get rid of them. As several of you said, they will only destroy the morale of the other members and the department. It can also extend to the community and if you don't have the community supporting you, you can have big problems. A problem that I have seen is many members want the problem child(ren) gone immediately but, you must stick to the guidelines and follow due process. Career or volunteer, they have rights and if they are violated, well, we all know the dreded word "lawsuit". I have found that an excellant tool in the fire chief's hand bag is peer pressure. You will always have those members that are strong and, whether they like what is happening or not, they see the big picture and understand the goal of the department and go along with the program and except change. These personnel can generally be very persuasive with those that are causing the problems. No one likes to be on the outside looking in; the problem child will generally come to their senses, but you will always have those the live for termoil. This has several effects, the individual doesn't see it as punishment which can also escalate the problem and generally it has positive effects. Most importanly, this problem should it reach the Chief level, and in some cases, before, must be brought to the City/County Managers attention not only as a courtesy but, he may have suggestions and will be aware of the situation should you have to dismiss the individual.

    Well, I could write a book on this subject. Yes, I have lived it and experienced both the positive and negetive outcome and I as long as we deal with people we will deal with these situations.

  19. #19
    MembersZone Subscriber Diane E's Avatar
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    When you talk to them, don't be nasty, don't raise your voice, don't say that everyone thinks this way (because I guarentee, 100% of the people probably don't agree), don't catch the person off guard (plan a private meeting with a neutral third party).

    My out-going chief (who I will add is not well-liked anymore) accused me of being arrogant (some lame reason that I think I'm better than everyone and I breeze in and out of the firehouse -- sorry I'm so busy that I don't have time to hear people complain all day) and in the same sentence, he said he considered me a friend. Now, I was on school leave for a year and a half so I wasn't around enough to **** anyone off. I also asked around and can't seem to find anyone who agrees with him!

    Anyway, the point is to talk to this person the way in which you'd like to be treated yourself if you were in their shoes.
    "When I was young, my ambition was to be one of the people who made a difference in this world. My hope is to leave the world a little better for my having been there."
    -- Jim Henson (1936 - 1990)

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