Military Service Members and Civilians: Seeing Eye-to-eye

Reviewed Dec 16, 2015

Close

E-mail Article

Complete form to e-mail article…

Required fields are denoted by an asterisk (*) adjacent to the label.

Separate multiple recipients with a comma

Close

Sign-Up For Newsletters

Complete this form to sign-up for newsletters…

Required fields are denoted by an asterisk (*) adjacent to the label.

 

Summary

  • Since military families are increasingly integrated into larger society, their presence in the workplace often stirs up tensions.
  • Learn more about military life prior to initiating conversations that may be offensive to some employees.

Often our nation is divided when our leaders involve the military in wars, coalitions and other military action. Regardless of your political position, how can you be sensitive to fellow co-workers who are reservists or military family members?

Consider what military life is like
 
Challenging yourself to better understand the lives of military families is a good place to start. 

The American military has drastically changed over the past few decades. Once a community very much segregated and isolated from the larger civilian community, the military family is now much more integrated into society at large. Gone are the days of the draft. More and more individuals who have served time in active duty are now employed in our workplaces, while remaining military reservists. More women are active duty, and there are more single-parent active duty and reservist personnel than ever before.

Despite these changes, there remain many cultural differences between military and civilian lifestyles. These differences are the basis for civilian misunderstandings, assumptions, and at times, inappropriate comments and inquiries directed toward reservists and military family members in the workplace.

In many ways, military families remain an invisible minority in our country and as such, are frequently subjected to harassment, bias, condemnation and ridicule. Stereotypes of military people are wrought with over-simplistic assumptions. “Duty, honor, sacrifice, and country,” may sound corny to a civilian, but they are words that really do have powerful significance to military personnel and their families. 

Even among the ranks closest to those being deployed, feelings and opinions are not unanimous. Some may support military action while some oppose it. Still others may decline to take a position. These positions are not unlike those of the general population.    

Regardless of the serviceperson’s and their family’s stance on any U.S. military involvement, they are committed to carry out orders from our nation’s political leaders. They do not make the decisions; they merely do their jobs to serve their country.

So, before engaging in political conversation in the workplace, be mindful that unless you have been a member of the military community, you may have little understanding of what a reservist or a military family member is going through during stressful times. With even a little information, you may reconsider using the workplace as a forum for your political perspectives.

Dos and don’ts in the workplace

  • DO be aware that you may have co-workers who are affected by the deployment of loved ones and who need your understanding and support, including your employee assistance program.
  • DON’T fault or blame military personnel for doing their jobs.
  • DO show support, respect, unity and empathy to those who are deployed and to their families.
  • DON’T discuss your political views at work; find other forums.
  • DO understand that many military families are experiencing loss, sacrifice and hardship.
  • DON’T ask personal questions, but DO listen to concerns voiced by a reservist or military family member.
  • DO offer support and prayers for a peaceful outcome and safe return of those mobilized.
  • DON’T assume all reservists or military families share pro-war sentiments.
  • DO offer to provide care packages or letters to those who are deployed.
  • DO give cards, child care offers, meals, household chores or other gifts of your time to the families of those deployed.
  • DO remind co-workers impacted by the war of any company resources available to them for personal assistance.
By Karen S. Dickason, LCSW, CEAP

Summary

  • Since military families are increasingly integrated into larger society, their presence in the workplace often stirs up tensions.
  • Learn more about military life prior to initiating conversations that may be offensive to some employees.

Often our nation is divided when our leaders involve the military in wars, coalitions and other military action. Regardless of your political position, how can you be sensitive to fellow co-workers who are reservists or military family members?

Consider what military life is like
 
Challenging yourself to better understand the lives of military families is a good place to start. 

The American military has drastically changed over the past few decades. Once a community very much segregated and isolated from the larger civilian community, the military family is now much more integrated into society at large. Gone are the days of the draft. More and more individuals who have served time in active duty are now employed in our workplaces, while remaining military reservists. More women are active duty, and there are more single-parent active duty and reservist personnel than ever before.

Despite these changes, there remain many cultural differences between military and civilian lifestyles. These differences are the basis for civilian misunderstandings, assumptions, and at times, inappropriate comments and inquiries directed toward reservists and military family members in the workplace.

In many ways, military families remain an invisible minority in our country and as such, are frequently subjected to harassment, bias, condemnation and ridicule. Stereotypes of military people are wrought with over-simplistic assumptions. “Duty, honor, sacrifice, and country,” may sound corny to a civilian, but they are words that really do have powerful significance to military personnel and their families. 

Even among the ranks closest to those being deployed, feelings and opinions are not unanimous. Some may support military action while some oppose it. Still others may decline to take a position. These positions are not unlike those of the general population.    

Regardless of the serviceperson’s and their family’s stance on any U.S. military involvement, they are committed to carry out orders from our nation’s political leaders. They do not make the decisions; they merely do their jobs to serve their country.

So, before engaging in political conversation in the workplace, be mindful that unless you have been a member of the military community, you may have little understanding of what a reservist or a military family member is going through during stressful times. With even a little information, you may reconsider using the workplace as a forum for your political perspectives.

Dos and don’ts in the workplace

  • DO be aware that you may have co-workers who are affected by the deployment of loved ones and who need your understanding and support, including your employee assistance program.
  • DON’T fault or blame military personnel for doing their jobs.
  • DO show support, respect, unity and empathy to those who are deployed and to their families.
  • DON’T discuss your political views at work; find other forums.
  • DO understand that many military families are experiencing loss, sacrifice and hardship.
  • DON’T ask personal questions, but DO listen to concerns voiced by a reservist or military family member.
  • DO offer support and prayers for a peaceful outcome and safe return of those mobilized.
  • DON’T assume all reservists or military families share pro-war sentiments.
  • DO offer to provide care packages or letters to those who are deployed.
  • DO give cards, child care offers, meals, household chores or other gifts of your time to the families of those deployed.
  • DO remind co-workers impacted by the war of any company resources available to them for personal assistance.
By Karen S. Dickason, LCSW, CEAP

Summary

  • Since military families are increasingly integrated into larger society, their presence in the workplace often stirs up tensions.
  • Learn more about military life prior to initiating conversations that may be offensive to some employees.

Often our nation is divided when our leaders involve the military in wars, coalitions and other military action. Regardless of your political position, how can you be sensitive to fellow co-workers who are reservists or military family members?

Consider what military life is like
 
Challenging yourself to better understand the lives of military families is a good place to start. 

The American military has drastically changed over the past few decades. Once a community very much segregated and isolated from the larger civilian community, the military family is now much more integrated into society at large. Gone are the days of the draft. More and more individuals who have served time in active duty are now employed in our workplaces, while remaining military reservists. More women are active duty, and there are more single-parent active duty and reservist personnel than ever before.

Despite these changes, there remain many cultural differences between military and civilian lifestyles. These differences are the basis for civilian misunderstandings, assumptions, and at times, inappropriate comments and inquiries directed toward reservists and military family members in the workplace.

In many ways, military families remain an invisible minority in our country and as such, are frequently subjected to harassment, bias, condemnation and ridicule. Stereotypes of military people are wrought with over-simplistic assumptions. “Duty, honor, sacrifice, and country,” may sound corny to a civilian, but they are words that really do have powerful significance to military personnel and their families. 

Even among the ranks closest to those being deployed, feelings and opinions are not unanimous. Some may support military action while some oppose it. Still others may decline to take a position. These positions are not unlike those of the general population.    

Regardless of the serviceperson’s and their family’s stance on any U.S. military involvement, they are committed to carry out orders from our nation’s political leaders. They do not make the decisions; they merely do their jobs to serve their country.

So, before engaging in political conversation in the workplace, be mindful that unless you have been a member of the military community, you may have little understanding of what a reservist or a military family member is going through during stressful times. With even a little information, you may reconsider using the workplace as a forum for your political perspectives.

Dos and don’ts in the workplace

  • DO be aware that you may have co-workers who are affected by the deployment of loved ones and who need your understanding and support, including your employee assistance program.
  • DON’T fault or blame military personnel for doing their jobs.
  • DO show support, respect, unity and empathy to those who are deployed and to their families.
  • DON’T discuss your political views at work; find other forums.
  • DO understand that many military families are experiencing loss, sacrifice and hardship.
  • DON’T ask personal questions, but DO listen to concerns voiced by a reservist or military family member.
  • DO offer support and prayers for a peaceful outcome and safe return of those mobilized.
  • DON’T assume all reservists or military families share pro-war sentiments.
  • DO offer to provide care packages or letters to those who are deployed.
  • DO give cards, child care offers, meals, household chores or other gifts of your time to the families of those deployed.
  • DO remind co-workers impacted by the war of any company resources available to them for personal assistance.
By Karen S. Dickason, LCSW, CEAP

The information provided on the Achieve Solutions site, including, but not limited to, articles, quizzes and other general information, is for informational purposes only and should not be treated as behavioral health care or management advice. Please direct questions regarding the operation of the Achieve Solutions site to Web Feedback. If you have questions related to workplace issues, please consider contacting your human resources department. ©2017 Beacon Health Options, Inc.

 

Close

  • Useful Tools

    Select a tool below

© 2017 Beacon Health Options, Inc.