In this episode I am talking about the results of rewarding undesirable behavior. This is a topic more often discussed in my leadership programs than in my situational awareness programs – motivation. There is one fundamental component of motivation that has a direct implication to firefighter safety… reward.
Length: 16 minutes
As it relates to first responders operating in emergency situations, their behaviors can be classified into one of two categories: Desired and undesired. Desired behaviors are those rooted in safety and best practices. Hopefully these are the behaviors taught during basic training and reinforced during on-going training and promoted during emergency responses.
Undesired behaviors are those rooted in unsafe behaviors and practices. These can be taught in training or can develop over time as a result of drifting away from best practices.
Behaviors are encouraged or discouraged with reinforcement. Reinforcement can be positive (i.e., providing something desirable or withholding something undesired) or negative (i.e., withholding something desired or providing something undesired).
Behaviors (both positive and negative) are influenced by reinforcement (both positive and negative). Let me provide you with a few examples of how these concepts marry up.
Positive reinforcement of desired behavior: A first responder performs tasks safely and consistent with best practices and is publicly acknowledged and recognized by a supervisor for the behavior.
Negative reinforcement of undesired behavior: A first responder performs tasks that are unsafe and inconsistent with best practices and is privately counseled with a warning that continuing the undesired behavior will result in a punitive consequence.
Negative reinforcement of desired behavior: A first responder performs tasks safely and consistent with best practices and is admonished or ridiculed by a supervisor for performing the task with a primary consideration for personal safety.
Positive reinforcement of undesired behavior: A first responder performs a task that is unsafe and inconsistent with best practices and a supervisor who is aware of the behavior fails to address it.
Safety Dance (1982)
Men Without Hats
GMC – Virgin Records
Firefighter Near Miss Reporting System