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Returning to a Civilian Job after Deployment

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businesspeople Your work environment, like other areas of your life, may be different when you return from deployment. You may worry about how you’ll fit back into the picture. Someone may have assumed your role, or at least picked up the slack in your absence. You will be required to shift back into “business as usual”, much different from your activities on deployment.

To make the transition easier, apply the golden principle: go slow. Talk with colleagues and supervisors to learn about changes, and do not be overly critical of the events that happened in your absence. You can’t change the past. Prepare yourself for the possibility that some of your colleagues may harbor some resentment. From their perspective, they’ve assumed an arduous workload due to your absence. Now that you’ve been gone for several weeks or months, perhaps you’re going to take at least a couple of weeks off work just when they want you to come back and start “pulling your weight” again. From your perspective, it makes sense that you’re entitled to some time off. You’ve endured many challenges and been away from family and friends. The issue here is not whose perception is “right” and whose perception is “wrong.” The issue is simply that you need to be prepared for the possibility that you may encounter some resentment when you return to work. How will you deal with it? One response would be to “give them a piece of your mind” about how unfair they are being. This might temporarily relieve your hurt and anger as you “set them straight,” but may create increased resentment. A more helpful response could be something like this: “You’re entitled to your point of view. If I were in your position, I might see it that way too. I appreciate the work you did to cover for all of us who were deployed. I’m glad to get back into a familiar daily work routine and to be able to have dinner with my family each night and sleep in my own bed again.”

Another work environment challenge you may encounter when you return to the workplace is staff turnover. In terms of the newcomers, you and they are an “unknown quantity” to each other. For that reason, you’ll need to establish your credibility with them, and vice versa. This is particularly true if you are in a supervisory role. You will also need to learn to work together effectively as a new team.

Finally, there is one other potential source of co-worker resentment, or at least irritation, amongst your colleagues you would be wise to avoid. You may be tempted to entertain your co-workers with “deployment/war stories.” To a point, your colleagues will likely be interested in hearing about your experiences. Once they’ve reached their saturation point, however, and that point will be different for each individual, it’s time to shift the conversation to another topic. Make sure you are just as interested in hearing about what interesting things they have been doing during your absence.