As an HR Director for a growing retail grocery company, I interviewed, hired and worked with lots of people, including several veterans. Each time, I was excited about bringing our shared, time-honored and battle-tested values into my company to help accomplish my company’s mission. When that happened, it was great. However, there were times when it didn’t always work out.
While I worked to improve the company, I also sought to understand the patterns related to the times it didn’t work well with the veterans. There are six traits I have noticed missing in my fellow veterans who either dropped out or didn’t succeed. Oddly, these are six traits we all learned in the military, so I never understood why those veterans didn’t exhibit them.
Positive: In the military, we learned to be courteous to all, and maintain an environment of dignity and respect. I had a veteran who never smiled during his interview. When I asked why not and explained how important friendliness would be in our retail business, the veteran said, “I am not known for my friendliness.”
Proud: In the military, we learned to recognize the value in the things that were done, even if they were small. We also learned that our pride was infectious; it made others proud, too. I had a veteran who gave great answers in the interview that reflected the value of pride, but failed to exhibit it on the job. The veteran was in a management role and only provided negative feedback to a clerk, even when many things had improved. When I discussed this pattern with the veteran, they replied by saying, “It wasn’t up to my standards.” What the veteran didn’t understand that it was the company’s standards that he was charged to ensure, not his own, and that managing employees is somewhat-different than leading troops.
Professional: In the military, we learned that it took time and effort to master the skills needed in our profession, and understood that advancement is based not only on technical expertise, but leadership, attitude and potential. I had a veteran with no retail experience complain after only two months on the job that he should already be running the store, because he was “better than that idiot running it now”.
Appearance: In the military, we learned that a crisp, clean appearance gives the best first impression–showing our pride and professionalism. I had a veteran whom I had to counsel, because he did not appreciate the store director telling him he needed to replace his stained and worn-out shirt. His response? “Everyone else looks just as bad”, he said, as if that justified his low standards and attitude.
Attitude: In the military, we learned that mission accomplishment was more important than who got the credit. We learned to cherish team success. In my company and many like it, that value still reigns; however, I had a veteran who was convinced that the word, “I” would help make a better impression. She was the sole reason for every success that ever happened. Despite this value gap, I gave her a chance and hired her. But, that attitude continued and it was disruptive.
Assertive: In the military, we learned that we need to take chances and often try things that we wouldn’t have. I have had several veterans that I really wanted to get into my company who flaked-out in the interview process when they learned how hard the work was and they felt the job was beneath them. I wasn’t looking for this industry when I retired, but I found that I could have a great impact on these people with the leadership I learned in the military.
These aren’t the only reasons for the problems veterans have experienced, but they are all things that we should be excelling in anyway. I have seen other veterans succeed, in part because these six traits were still strong.
It is a competitive world. Don’t tell me that you have great values. Show me.
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