As the military downsizes and combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan are coming to a screeching halt, veterans are going to need jobs. Some of those veterans will be self employed, most will need to be employed by companies that already exist. They will be brash, seem not to care, and often times be hard for a civilian to handle. As both a business owner and a combat veteran, I’m going to give all the managers out there some tips on how to deal with us who have been to combat.
1. Be patient, even when they are not.
You’ll see the veterans you employ might be extremely impatient with customers and coworkers. They aren’t always used to dealing with “feelings” and “political correctness.” Often decisions and actions in combat had to happen too fast to be worried about how a command or order would make somebody feel. In the civilian workplace, feelings and relationships are everything. At the end of the day, veterans returning to the workforce will be eager to take criticism on how to improve, just be patient if they are brash.
2. Teach them, and explain things.
It is becoming a well known fact that veterans are trainable. If you show us how to accomplish things, we can get it done. However, we may not always understand the processes if we are new to an industry or company. We might not get why you do business the way you do, and that might take some explaining. The better a veteran has your overall intent, the better off you will be with them as a team.
3. Show some respect.
Just remember, if you’re talking to an employee who is a combat veteran, they have been to war and come back. They took an oath of service and served their country in a time of war. They will show you respect as an employer, and you should show some as a grateful American if you did not serve. If you did serve, you’ll likely become good buddies and have a lot in common.
Working with veterans on multiple projects in the business world is honestly one of the greatest things I have ever done outside the military. You will be surprised how hard veterans can and will work for you and your company if you know how to treat them. That being said, if they were a turd when they served, they’ll be a turd wherever they are working in the civilian world. If you haven’t worked with some very successful combat vets yet, you’ll be surprised when you do.