Remember the game Telephone from when you were a kid? One person tells a story to another and then it goes from one to another until the last person gets it. What was the outcome? The guy at the end always had a different story then what was started. Amazing. What a great kid’s game. The sad part is we still play that game. I hate to say it, but firefighters are really terrible at playing it too.
Recently in my department a rumor got started about some “indiscretions” at a firehouse. The rumor made it’s way up the chain of command and came back down like an avalanche. Firefighters were being threatened with punishment, investigations were started AFTER those threats, and maybe some searches were performed on lockers.
One firefighter in particular was being blamed for starting the whole ordeal. Mostly for an end run of the chain of command and for being a coward by not confronting the people who were said to be involved. Other firefighters who were not involved called the firefighter on his off time and generally harassed him.
Long story longer…when the investigation was finally launched and the firefighter in question was asked about the incident, it was quickly apparent that there was no incident. The firehouse alleged to have performed the indiscretion had no idea what the commotion was about. Eventually the source of the embellishments was found (someone who was unrelated to the whole thing). And all charges were dropped, minor apologies were made.
End of story right? wrong. The firefighter’s reputation is now crap even though he did nothing wrong. Reassignment was ordered. Many companies refused to take him on the grounds that his attitude might spoil their company.
Why? Because firefighters are horrible at playing telephone.
Most firefighters love to gossip. I could bet they aren’t spending too much time discussing the good things guys do. I tell the guys I work with “If you haven’t worked with him, you don’t know him”. Nothing pisses me off more than when someone says “I heard he’s a real POS”. My first question is “How do you know?”
I could tell you not to judge a book by it’s blah blah blah. But if you leap before you look, bad things are going to happen and not just to you. NEVER start handling a problem until you’ve identified it. It makes you look like an idiot and it can damage other member’s careers. Bottom line; it’s unprofessional. Think before you act.
Let me hear some of your horror stories.