01 Mar A TO Z: 26 ISSUES TRANSITIONING VETERANS FACE #3
One’s experiences and reactions determine how he or she thinks in any situation. For example, a person who walked on eggshells around superiors, will program him or herself into being defensive in interviews or when dealing with authority. While another, who WAS the superior, expects to be treated with a certain etiquette and deference; therefore, he or she may be aloof. Defensive or aloof are communication killers with serious opportunity costs – often a job or relationship. These are known as “communication barriers,” which veterans need to overcome.
Knowing what to say and when is very important. Every soldier reacts to stress differently and having an understanding of how soldiers think is key. Whether in a work or home setting, different elements affect a veteran’s demeanor – both positively and negatively. This is not something to be afraid of, rather it’s something that needs to be understood. And one-size doesn’t fit all: each veteran is different. After all, no two veterans went through exactly the same things, with the same mix and the same perspective. Hence, just like two people at an accident see different things; two veterans in the same battle come away changed distinctly.
There are no cookie-cutter approaches to communicating with veterans. Sometimes, having a bad day could be due to a medical condition that a reasonable accommodation may alleviate. For example, if a person has a sensitivity to light, which cause him or her headaches, putting them in a low-light room could be the answer to helping them be productive.
It takes asking the little questions, in order to understand what to do. Having sensitivity training and awareness classes for veterans, their families and employers may have positive consequences. Having a mutually-beneficial work-life balance will enhance this transitional period. Moreover, the employer having realistic expectations during this phase is imperative.
There are few people as hardworking and mission oriented as a veteran. However, sometimes it takes patience in the beginning to realize this. For example, they may have medical appointments during work time, as they phase into their new normal. So a flexible schedule, allowing them to meet their responsibility to the job and receiving the care they need, may be the answer.
Communication is a two-way street. Messages are sent and but they’re also received. Training has to be made available to both parties (employers and vets), in order that realistic expectations, needs and goals are established – without bias or prejudice. There is a time and place for every appropriate conversation. Ensuring you take the time to have it with your veteran employee will save time and money, and provide a valuable asset to your team – a well-trained, hard-working soldier. Let’s help them adjust to being home again.