Sunday, 23 December 2012

Can you trust a civvie?

Trust is essential in all organisations - but even more so in the Military. Decisions have the potential of lethal consequences - so you need to be able to trust those making decisions. In combat as well as in training, you need to be able to rely upon each other. There's little personal advantage to be gained; you're in it together. Everybody knows his or her place; understands what has to be delivered. The roles are clear - you know what to expect of each other, and what is expected of you. There's a whole system of rules and roles which has been tried and tested for generations. When you join the Forces, you join this history. You become part of it, and you learn to trust it. You know where you stand.

Not so in civvie street.

We are much more geared to being individuals - "fitting in" is not our main concern. Often, hierarchies are not well defined; roles and responsibilities are fluid. Though we adjust to the organisation we work in, we generally also quite enjoy challenging it. Some consultants suggest we need a lot more of not doing things the usual way, of thinking outside the box for organisations to survive.

To somebody who has just left the Forces, it must appear as if we were all fighting each other, each defending their own, individualistic causes. I don't think we are. But for a service leaver, it must be confusing: the lack of structure, protocol, procedures. We do have rules, of course, but not so much for how we interact with each other. "I'll get back to you tomorrow" could mean "if I don't forget" / "if I find the time". We will hardly ever assume that anything we do or promise is critical. Of course, decency would expect of all of us to deliver; to show respect to one another. But don't be too surprised if occasionally it doesn't happen.

If civvies have proven unreliable - does this mean they can't be trusted? In some respects, this would seem to be true. Some of us can't be trusted to deliver. It also means we can't be trusted to understand what it means to you - to be able to rely on what we say.

Whoever is reading this and still willing to give us a chance: We are not all the same. By all means be careful and take your time - but don't assume the worst of every single one of us. Give us a chance - because I'm convinced that we can help each other in making this transition successful for you.

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