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Military Discipline in the Civilian Workplace

Updated on August 9, 2013
Military Teamwork on Deck
Military Teamwork on Deck | Source
Civilian Sector Meetings
Civilian Sector Meetings | Source

or the lack thereof

Since I left the military, I have worked in three major industries for many companies. Those industries are logistics, retail and warehousing. In fact, while working for a temp agency, I worked in combination of these industries in a single assignment. Throughout all of them, I have found that the levels and types of discipline practiced is quite different from the discipline practiced in the military. These differences can be quite daunting and, at times, disturbing.

I have heard some call military discipline rigid and almost drone-like, as in military service-members being brain-washed or robotic. Despite these popular opinions, military members do, in fact, have individual thoughts, feelings and aspirations. There is ambition, drive, loyalty and a sense of duty. However, there is also politics, backstabbing, laziness and selfishness; just like in the private sector. But ... the measure of discipline, regardless of the negative personalities and attitudes, is still much higher than that in the civilian community.

Civilian managers are far more power-hungry and more likely to look out for themselves. In the military, there is strong sense of training, since we do it everyday. There are many military leaders that are quick to help subordinates learn and utilize the traits and skills needed to acquire higher rank. There are no great amounts of schadenfreude felt, which is very prevalent in civilian leadership. In fact, I have often said that, if many of the organizations that I have worked for were Navy ships, those organizations would sink under civilian leadership, which is sad.

On the other hand, there are many subordinates in the private sector that just don't care. They don't care about their co-workers, their job performance, the companies they work for or for the rules, regulations and ethical practices associated with completing their tasks. I see so many times the people wanting to be paid more for doing less work. They want the raise, but they don't want the added responsibilities and accountability that comes with added salary. Yes, I know that the military receives annual raises without increase in rank or otherwise, but COL increases are nowhere near the rate of inflation increases, and I'm sure that is the same in the private sector. Then again, civilians aren't in harm's way 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. It really is about the dangers involved with military tasks, and civilians can't possibly fathom that. Some civilians may, from time to time, practice safe measures and keep an eye on fellow workers, but in the military, safety and the possibility of having to save someone's life is always there. Always!

I have also seen in the private sector workers taking every opportunity they can to stay home, go home early or complain about not being about to leave early. They also start complaining about working overtime unexpectedly, or even during expected periods of overtime. Some even complain about the overtime rate not being high enough or worth the exhaustion felt. However, for a period of six weeks while I was in the Persian Gulf, I had to work 12 on/12 off. That's 84 hours out of the week; a week that is 168 hours long. There was no overtime rate. I was paid the same amount whether I worked 20 hours or 100 hours per week, and after six weeks, I was very exhausted. Furthermore, there was no calling in sick. There was no tolerance for coming in late, which is VERY rampant in the private sector. In the military, we are trained and disciplined to show up for work everyday and on time.

And, in the end, maybe it's me, because I'm often reminded that I'm not in the military anymore and that I should stop holding others to the standards I was held to in the Navy. Then again, those reminders come from people that never were in the military. So, maybe they don't understand the meaning of core values like honor, courage, commitment and duty. I just think that, if more private sector companies instilled military-like discipline, there would be more success and less failure. What would stockholders think if military discipline was used to reduce overhead costs? If profits were increased due to military discipline being implemented, more of those selfish leaders and subordinates would find bigger bonuses or more put into their company-provided 401(k) accounts. One can only imagine the possibilities.

© 2012 Charles Dawson

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