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Why Is Military-To-Civilian Transition So Hard?


Why Is Military-To-Civilian Transition So Hard?

The cultural and communication gap is the heart of the challenge. Remember, 94% of the current American population never served in the U.S. military.

Here Are Eight Reasons:

1. It is a fragmented approach

Three government agencies have a critical role in your military-to-civilian transition: Department of Defense (own the responsibility and manage the time for delivery), Veterans Administration (responsible for post-service healthcare and most benefits) and the Department of Labor (support in retaining post-service employment). The inter-departmental seams add complexity to an already challenging evolution for service members.

2. One week is insufficient time to learn everything about transition

The military spends months on preparing someone to serve in the U.S. Armed Forces – initial orientation and military indoctrination. But the military allocates only one week to teach the service member to become a civilian again.

3. Military-to-Civilian Transition defined:

  • a psychological and cultural evolution

  • a path to reorientation and self-definition

  • a move from a collectivist to individualist community

  • a culture shock for veterans and their families that have negative impact on experiences

4. Civilian population does not understand nor appreciate military service

  • The general population does not understand the veteran, their language or their culture.

  • They cannot connect the dots between military skills and experiences and their relevance to business needs.

  • It leads to misunderstanding, miscommunication and tremendous barriers to the veteran attempting military-to-civilian transition or acclimating to their new operating environment once hired.

5. Structure between the military and civilian work environments are different


Military = strong, hierarchical, vertical command and control structure with a consistent method and structure for consistent operation

  • Hierarchical/vertical structure

  • More exact rules of conduct

  • Defined roles, rank & status (defined/assigned military occupational career fields)

  • Consistency across units/organizations

  • Clearly defined career progression

  • Additionally, veterans share a bond in beliefs, traditions, values and the importance of rank and structure

Civilian = usually flexible, distributed and intent or vision-based structure with less uniformity

  • Matrixed structure

  • More implied or "understood" rules of conduct

  • Flexible/ambiguous roles and status

  • Variations across teams/divisions

  • Less defined career progression / opportunity for lateral assignments

  • Corporate culture imposes corporate values on the organization

6. Career progression and advancement opportunities in each environment are not similar


Military = formal line of progression or pathway within the same career field to the top; a career ladder that advances members based on their performance and potential centered on a narrow set of skills.


Civilian = much more flexible path where members can transfer laterally to different career fields to broaden their set of skills based on value they’ve created for the corporation, and networking – who you know.

7. On the job experiences are very different


Military = Task driven environment where standards are usually well defined.

  • Supervision or evaluation of every task is almost mandatory.

  • Job security is rather assured and routine personal counselling makes it clear when it is at risk.

  • Leaders motivate subordinates to succeed on behalf of the overarching vision and mission.

Civilian = Ambiguous work environment

  • Work is approached with a level of indifference.

  • Job security is not assured, nor are opportunities toward growth and


  • Leaders motivating direct reports is not desired to produce results.

8. Values in each respective environment appear different


Military = Live by an ethos where the organization, its success and survival, is more important than individual ambitions, goals and survival.

  • Relies on “perimeters” to stay safe, secure and survive.

  • Trusts others to do their part and to communicate when they needed help – even when out of sight.

  • Strong personal connection is essential for the perimeter concept to work.

Civilian = Appear to be more focused on the individual and their independence, more competitive instead of collaborative, and political correctness is expected over candor.

  • Non-veteran coworkers may perceive veterans of being too rigid, overly confident and excessively dedicated to the organization’s mission.

  • Do not create perimeters and no reason for strong personal connections to support the team or company achieving its goals and objectives.


Why Hire Military Veterans?

Virtuous Cycles of Mutual Benefitkoch-industries-john-event.jpg

  • Our nation’s sons and daughters heroically serve to protect and defend our way of life, enabling an environment for our businesses to thrive and prosper.

  • Military experiences lead to quality employment where veterans can continue to serve others: our customers and society in general.

  • Lives are improved and enhanced, which encourages continued mutual transaction.

  • Customers (and society in general) see the linkages between military service – post-service employment – and value creation.

  • As a result, customers and society encourage their sons and daughters to serve our country in the U.S. Armed Forces.

  • The next generation of sons and daughters enlist to continue, enabling our way of life.