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How To Excel At Promotional Exams: The Personnel Counseling Session. Steve Prziborowski . Objectives. Define the term progressive discipline. Identify the 8 steps to a successful counseling session. Define the 4 major personnel issues that need to be addressed immediately.

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Define the term progressive discipline.

Identify the 8 steps to a successful counseling session.

Define the 4 major personnel issues that need to be addressed immediately.

Create personnel expectations to ensure your personnel know what is expected.

Determine the difference between a crew member and a supervisor


Military Counseling


Military Discipline

think about this
Think About This
  • Why does a promotional examination contain a personnel (or subordinate) counseling session?
  • What does a Fire Chief (or your future supervisor) expect of you in the promoted position?
look around the country
Look Around The Country….

Two white career firefighters in Virginia are suspended with pay after a noose was found in the car of a black firefighter (2009)

Two New York EMTs have been suspended without pay after allegations that they ignored a dying patient while eating their breakfast (2009)

look around the country9
Look Around The Country….

At least four Georgia firefighters have been terminated for failing to locate a reported structure fire which resulted in a civilian death after they found it five hours later (2010)

Racist and sexist graffiti was scrawled all over the women's dormitory in a Texas fire station, currently under review by the FBI (2010)


How Not To Drive A Fire Truck


Unbelievable Fire Truck Crash

look around the country14
Look Around The Country….

Three Colorado firefighters including the former Fire Chief, are charged with felonies related to the forgery of training paperwork (2009)

A Wisconsin firefighter was fired and a department paramedic resigned Monday over accusations that they shot what department officials described as a derogatory video at a city firehouse and posted it on YouTube (2009)

last but not least from ca
Last…But Not Least…From CA

Seven firefighters suspended after a woman reported that she had been sexually assaulted on a fire engine by an on-duty firefighter who was attending a Porn Star Costume Ball (2005)

In two firefighters each get five-day suspensions for having sex in the firehouse (2005)

Female firefighter resigns, three male firefighters are terminated after group sex in firehouse (2005)

crew member or supervisor
Crew Member or Supervisor??

What is the difference?

Which will you be?

Can you point out individuals in your department that are clearly one or the other?

Can you point out individuals in your department that can successfully balance the two roles?

supervisor roles responsibilities
Supervisor Roles & Responsibilities

Modeling appropriate behavior

Being positive

Setting expectations & communicating them

Training & coaching

Using progressive discipline

Following procedural requirements

supervisor roles responsibilities19
Supervisor Roles & Responsibilities

Maintaining & enforcing rules & regulations, policies, etc.

Fostering & supporting an environment of mutual respect

Keeping in mind that discipline is time sensitive

why firefighters are not successful
Why Firefighters Are Not Successful

Unawareness / ignorance




Which is it?

Are there other possibilities?

Try to find out which as it will help handle the situation & determine level of progressive discipline

types of personnel counseling problems
Types of Personnel CounselingProblems
  • Role Play
  • Videos
  • Regardless of either:
    • you’re typically a new company officer or chief officer
    • you’re going to have deal with problems
    • can you be the designated adult?
typical dimensions being evaluated
Oral communication


Decision making and decisiveness

Interpersonal skills

Problem solving ability

Understanding the job role

Effectiveness under stress


Conflict resolution ability


Knowledge of policy, laws, etc.

Ability to apply discipline

Typical Dimensions Being Evaluated
before attempting to handle
Before Attempting To Handle
  • Know your rules, policies, MOA / MOU
  • Know specific policies – time off, harassment, grievances, etc.
  • Understand the term progressive discipline
  • Understand your level of authority
  • Know FMLA / EAP / CISD / other laws / programs
  • Know terms such as harassment, retaliation, fact finding, union representation, sexual harassment
personnel problem resources
Personnel Problem Resources

Direct supervisor


Former supervisors

Human Resources / Personnel Department


Labor Union

Department manuals / binders

EAP / CISD / Clergy

levels of progressive discipline
Levels of Progressive Discipline

Preventative Action:

  • Establishing goals and expectations
  • Training
  • Coaching

Non-Punitive Discipline:

  • Record of discussion
  • Verbal counseling
  • Written counseling

NOTE: The above can slightly change depending on the jurisdiction.

levels of progressive discipline27
Levels of Progressive Discipline

Punitive Discipline:

  • Letter of reprimand
  • Reduction in pay
  • Suspension
  • Demotion
  • Termination

NOTE: The above can slightly change depending on the jurisdiction.

4 major issues to be addressed asap
4 Major Issues to be Addressed ASAP
  • Issues relating to not treating others with respect and courtesy:
    • Harassment
    • Rudeness
    • Violence
    • Inappropriate behavior

2. Issues affecting customer service

4 major issues to be addressed asap29
4 Major Issues to be Addressed ASAP
  • Issues affecting service delivery

- Apparatus related / readiness

  • Issues relating to character traits

- Lying

- Incompetence

- Poor performance

8 steps for a successful personnel counseling session
8 Steps For A Successful Personnel Counseling Session
  • Start with friendly greeting
  • Briefly state the problem
  • Employee talks, you listen
  • You talk (facts, what you witnessed), employee listens
  • State rules for desired behavior
  • Develop an action plan
  • Review with employee feedback
  • Positive closing
rules for a successful negotiation
Rules For A Successful Negotiation
  • The person who speaks first sets the tone.
  • Ask good questions, never assume.
  • The person with the most information is in control.
  • People do things for their reasons – not yours.
  • Remain emotionally detached.

Source: Paul Stein – Chief (Retired)

typical defenses explanations
Typical Defenses / Explanations

Lack of cause

Procedural defect

No notice

No help

Personality conflict

role plays
Role Plays

Usually one role player all candidates see

Role player has a script to follow

Will usually last 10 to 15 minutes

Is expected to be stressful

Expect role player to be in your face

Your goal is to get agreement to a problem

Role player may not crack for a certain time frame

role play tips for success
Role Play Tips For Success
  • Don’t get angry with them or raise your voice; they will cave in eventually
  • Don’t take it personally, they’re role playing!
  • Even if you’re sure of problem, don’t expect them to admit quickly
    • you may have to ask same question multiple times or wait for a pre-determined time for them to crack
  • If possible, have them sit down next to you to calm them down; no table separations
  • Watch your time – it will go quick!
video scenarios
Video Scenarios
  • Usually a 30 second to 2 minute video
  • Consistent for every candidate
  • Less stressful than having role players
  • Be prepared to answer questions
video scenario tips for success
Video Scenario Tips For Success
  • Pay attention, usually only one chance to watch
  • Take notes carefully, but not watching may cause you to miss key details
  • Have answers ready for the possible questions
  • Don’t forget the 8 steps to a successful counseling session
follow up questions
Follow-up Questions
  • What were all of the issues you observed?
  • What was the real problem?
  • What would you do and why?
  • What level of discipline would you impose or recommend? Why? Why not more or less?
  • What policies, rules, etc. have been violated?
  • Would you notify your supervisor?
  • What documentation would you complete?
follow up questions38
Follow-up Questions
  • Do you feel you resolved the situation?
  • What events would you expect to occur between the personnel now, based upon your actions?
  • What type of follow-up (if any) would you do?
  • How do you think you were perceived by your personnel?
  • If you had to do it all over, would you do anything differently?
general tips for success
General Tips For Success
  • Intimately know FD specific rules, policies, expectations – you’re going to have to enforce them fairly, impartially, consistently
  • Don’t patronize, be rude or negative
  • Be firm, fair, impartial, just state the facts
  • Open ended questions are best
  • Don’t go above (or below) your level of education/training, or level of authority!
general tips for success40
General Tips For Success

Don’t jump to conclusions

Don’t lose your cool

Take ownership of your responsibility /duty to act

Do separate personnel if multiple parties

Take the time to gather all the facts

Remember everyone is “guilty until proven innocent”

Remember to maintain confidentiality

general tips for success41
General Tips For Success

Remember that not every infraction will require discipline

Determine whether the investigation warrants an:

“outside moving inside” or “inside movingoutside” process

Listen carefully and compassionately

Remember the “iceberg” concept – what you see above or on the surface may be symptoms of a real problem below the surface

general tips for success42
General Tips For Success
  • Separate person from behavior.
  • 95% of problems are behavior / 5% are technical.
  • If it is one of the four (4) major issues needing to be addressed immediately (Respect/Courtesy, Customer Service, Service Delivery, CharacterTraits), then do so!
  • Remember, the raters and the department want to see if you are going to do the job you’re going to get paid to do!
personnel expectations

Personnel Expectations

Either you set the stage for your personnel……………...

or they will set it for you!

personnel expectations44
Personnel Expectations

I encourage you to create your own to discuss with your crew

Ensure they are realistic, measurable, obtainable, legal, ethical, within the expectations of your administration, etc.

Refer to pages 5 through 10 of the separate handout for sample personnel expectations.

personnel expectations45
Personnel Expectations

Do not forget to ask your crew what they expect of you!

It’s a two-way street!

Now that you have shared your expectations

Make sure you hold your personnel accountable for their actions or non-actions!

group activity 1
Group Activity #1

Sample Personnel Counseling Problems


Page 11

group activity 2
Group Activity #2

Sample Personnel Counseling Problem

Role Play #1


Page 14 – Candidate

Page 15 – Role Player

group activity 3
Group Activity #3

Sample Personnel Counseling Problem

Role Play #2


Page 16 – Candidate

Page 17 – Role Player

group activity 4
Group Activity #4

Sample Personnel Counseling Problems


  • Thank you very much for your time and attention – enjoy the rest of the conference and don’t just stay safe – make it safe!


  • Steve Prziborowski
  • (408) 205-9006 – cellular phone
  • (website)
  • (email)