We develop a thick skin while serving and get desensitized to dark humor, insults, and obscenities. Veterans can be direct, honest, and harsh with the message first, occasional insult second, and feelings never. It’s commonplace to have it out with someone at work and have a beer together after…but the civilian world is different. Most civilian workplaces don’t appreciate the scorched earth, take no prisoners approach that Veterans can take into conflict situations. We don’t train to lose fights, rarely back down, and we aren’t looking to wave a white flag. That creates a culture shock when Veterans transition from the military to civilian workplaces. Shit rolls downhill in the military and uphill in civilian employment.
In the military it isn’t frowned upon to yell or curse at people, it’s sort of the military way of life. Finding ourselves in the civilian world require Veterans to take a step back and navigate conflict differently. There’s a long list of Veterans who have found themselves getting a talking to in HR offices for telling off-color jokes, knife handing coworkers, and pulling pranks. There are a lot of things deemed acceptable or might get an eye roll in the military that would be unthinkable as a civilian. In civilian workplaces you can’t scream at people and there’s a tightrope of political correctness to walk. You can’t make your subordinates do push-ups…even if they deserve it.
1. Your first reaction is sometimes your worst reaction, have some tactical patience and plan your conflict to win your conflict.
2. A lot of arguments aren’t worth having because you can’t hold civilians to military standards.
3. Keep in mind Veterans are more forgiving of one another. There’s a recognition in the military that we can disagree, but we’re still on the same team. Civilians are more likely to hold a grudge.
4. Be careful who you vent to, just because they listen to you doesn’t mean they’re on your team. The military focuses on values like honor and integrity but back-stabbing is more common on the corporate battlefield.
5. In the military you can’t get fired for cursing and yelling, but you could be unemployed tomorrow in the civilian realm for telling someone off, a joke, or a political argument.
There are a lot of things that we can teach the civilian population in the workplace. How to be disciplined, attention to detail, and teamwork. In the military we don’t clock in or out, we stay until the job is done and selfishness is a military sin. We go above and beyond because that’s what greatness takes, we take deep pride in ourselves, and what we do for the country and one another. The civilian world is different, but that doesn’t mean it’s worse. There’s always going to be workplace conflict and managing it properly is vital to Veteran success. Let me know some of your craziest civilian workplace stories on IG at @john.h.davis.writer and follow these tips for more effective workplace confrontation.