9 More Strategies for Success in a Fire Department Staff Position

By: Robert Avsec, Executive Fire Officer

As promised in yesterday’s post, 15 Strategies for Success in a Fire Department Staff Position, here are the other 9

Battalion Chief Marlene Kostyrka, CFO is the Accredidation Manager for the Winston-Salem (NC) Fire Department.

strategies for success for the fire officer moving into a staff position for the first time.

7. Don’t be a chronic complainer

There are always times when everyone feels the desire to complain about the boss, a coworker, or a task. But voicing it only makes you look unprofessional. In the movie, “Saving Private Ryan”, as the Army captain (played by Tom Hanks) and his men are marching along in their mission to find Private Ryan and return him home, several of them were griping and complaining about their assignment. The captain tells them to “pipe down”, so one of them asks, “Captain, don’t you ever have gripes?” The captain replied, “Sure, I have gripes. But my gripes go up.”

8. Don’t call in sick if you’re not

Staff positions don’t get backfilled. When you don’t show up for work, either someone else must pick up your load or it waits until you return to work. And you do know that it’s more difficult to keep this news (that you’re not really sick) to yourself, what with your inclination to post your life on social media, right?

9. Don’t come to work when you’re sick

On the flipside, stay at home if you are sick. It’s much easier to transmit illness to others in an office environment where people are working in close quarters and in groups. Also, while your workload may be slack now, a co-worker’s may not be and they might not be able to afford becoming sick without getting behind or missing a deadline. Stay home, get well, and catch up on your work upon your return.

10. Don’t do other stuff during meetings

I agree with many productivity experts when they say that the term “multi-tasking” is an oxymoron. It’s nearly impossible to concentrate fully on two things at the same time. Why do you think it’s illegal to text and drive?

Want to know how to effectively communicate to your co-workers that you’re not paying attention? Text message, surf the web on your tablet, or send e-mails from your phone and you’ll clearly communicate that, while your butt is occupying a seat, your mind is elsewhere.

11. Don’t interrupt conversations

It’s just plain rude to interrupt. Interrupting shows others that you don’t have any respect, judgment, or patience. While participation in a conversation can earn you some brownie points, bad timing can wipe those points away.

12. Don’t sell stuff at work

An office setting may seem like a “target rich environment” in which to sell cookies, candy, or other assorted goods to raise funds for your child’s sports team, but it can be seen as unprofessional, unwanted, awkward, and obligating. Same goes for seeking donations for a charitable organization, regardless of the cause.

Many companies prohibit soliciting at work because it takes up work time and places people in an awkward position; your co-workers might feel compelled to buy because everyone else did, or they’re concerned that you’ll remember that they didn’t buy or give.

13. Don’t use inappropriate language

Mark Twain said, “Vulgarity is a weak mind trying to forcefully express itself.” The use of foul or questionable language is not only a bad habit. In most places of business, it’s considered unprofessional and just might get you a visit to your department’s Human Resources department for a little chat.

14. Don’t spend your work time making personal calls all day long

Rule of Thumb: Conduct every personal communication while at work as if your boss is sitting right beside you. And be sure to keep it private. The fire station is not the only place that “runs on gossip”; one overheard juicy tidbit can spread like a wildfire, especially with social media.

You’re at work and your department expects to get a full day’s work for a full day’s pay. Talking or texting with friends or family on company time is unprofessional and could be against your department’s policy.

If you must text or talk for personal business, do it on a break and do it in private (not in the break room or kitchen). In an office environment, one never knows when a co-worker might “pop in” with a question or information you asked for. Or your boss may stop in for an impromptu chat.

15. Don’t isolate yourself from your co-workers

Go around and introduce yourself to everyone in the offices where you’ll be working. Be sure to include the secretaries and personal assistants of other officers in the work unit. I guarantee that more than once during your stint you’ll have a need for information or guidance that only they can give.

Make it a point to share lunchtime with one or more of your co-workers at least a couple of times a week. Not only is this a great way for you to learn more about them and what they do, but it also gives them the same opportunity. Make it a point to show them how what they do in their job helps the firefighters and officers in the fire stations. They don’t hear or see that often enough.

A staff assignment is a wonderful opportunity for you to broaden your professional horizons beyond your “fire station centric” point of view. You might have volunteered for this assignment, or you may have been “volunteered” for it, but regardless of the scenario, take advantage of it.

About Robert Avsec, Executive Fire Officer

Battalion Chief (Ret.) Robert Avsec served with the men and women of the Chesterfield County (VA) Fire and EMS Department for 26 years. He’s now using his acquired knowledge, skills, and experiences as a freelance writer for FireRescue1.com and as the “blogger in chief” for this blog. Chief Avsec and his wife of 30+ years now make their home in Cross Lanes, WV. Contact him via e-mail, rpa1157@gmail.com.