Working in the emergency field is incredibly exhilarating, especially when emergencies can be a life and death situation. Those responding to 911 calls can have a tremendous influence over a serious situation intervening to save lives and property.
While many employees are intrinsically motivated, the management of an emergency team needs to be comprised of individuals who understand how to motivate and lead others - but, all teams are different.
Motivation alone is a particularly intricate concept because individuals are motivated by many, many different things. Thus, there is a vast amount of scholarly literature exploring numerous aspects of motivation and how it works for individuals, teams, and organizations at large.
Therefore, a good manager needs to consider how to motivate their team based on the strengths and weaknesses of their employees, and how management strategies will potentially work differently for employees on an emergency team.
Management is always a delicate balance with numerous factors coming into play.
Peter Economy wrote about nine ways to motivate a team. In the list, Economy includes items like “pay your people what they’re worth” and “set clear goals.”
In the world of emergency management, both of these items are rather complex and, perhaps, may not be motivational tools that would work well for an emergency team. Most managers want to pay their employees well in the emergency field - certainly they should with the amount of certifications and experience many emergency employees have. However, many local municipalities struggle with an appropriate budget unable to pay their employees what they probably should be paid. (A related article discusses this issue in a similar light).
Further, this can’t necessarily be a motivational tool for many emergency managers.
Setting clear goals, as mentioned by Economy, is also a rather difficult concept for many teams and organizations – let alone those that work in the emergency field. In many team environments, this is an important aspect, and is certainly a good way to manage employees. In the emergency world though, it may not necessarily be something that can be used as a motivational tool.
Further, goals are actually very complicated and can present numerous issues to a team when they’re not constructed correctly. In the scholarly article Goals Gone Wild, Ordonez et al examine the literature writing that the construction of goals can have a detrimental affect on an organization – especially if the goals are vague, are too complicated, or have unrealistic deadlines. They argue that a poorly constructed goal, even with the best intentions, can work against an organization producing disastrous results.
When it comes to emergency management, it becomes increasingly important for those in charge to review articles like the one written by Peter Economy and decide whether or not these specific factors will work well for their team. In many cases, management suggestions many not work with an emergency team because it is a specialized team that is vastly different from a team in a “normal” organization.