In what industry are both white collar and blue collar managers and leaders trained each time they are promoted? In the military. In the military services, we have to lead and manage persons from all sorts of backgrounds. So, for decades, the U.S. military has required attendance and graduation from various schools for promotion to the next rank. As a young lieutenant in the Infantry Officer Basic Course, we role played leaders and rank and file soldiers in various counseling situations. Upon graduation, we were not licensed counselors, but we knew enough to listen to our soldiers and understand how to help them find solutions to problems, such as divorce, child rearing and substance abuse. As we often say in the Army, “In the Army, we are in the people business.” That is our way of explaining that we focus on our most important inventory, the men and women who make up our forces.
Yet, a recent study by the Duke University Fuqua School of Business shows many employers in the U.S. see military veterans as a poor fit for emotional social jobs. In one study, conducted in the restaurant industry, employers rated military veterans as much more suitable for low feeling positions, such as dish washers and prep cooks than for servers. See Army Times report here.
That is ironic since every Sergeant has graduated from at least one NCO leadership school which typically last 4-8 weeks, in addition to the experience of leading and managing men and women in garrison and in combat.
I could write a book on the combat experience. But, I can say that there is no greater pressure cooker than a combat zone. In a war zone, every decision, no matter how trivial, presents life or death consequences. Stress is never greater. Leadership ability, including the simple ability to work well with others, is at a premium. I wondered, when I was in Iraq sometimes, about the Morale, Welfare, Recreation Centers. At the MWR center, a soldier could check out a movie or read a book. Would it set someone off if their favorite move was not available? In a war zone, everyone needs to be performing his/her job at top efficiency.
U.S. employers clearly do not appreciate the sort of training we have had in the military. In my lawsuits, I often encounter businesses that provide no training for its mid-level managers. None. I find that simply astounding. Don’t you know that a young Sergeant with a couple of tours in Iraq could handle a busy night at a popular restaurant?