Former military personnel make great assets in the business world. They possess a wide variety of skills that most organizations would jump at the chance to bring on board.
However, the military communication style is quite different from the standard style used in corporate America. For those transitioning from military to civilian life, this is one area where some adaptation may be required.
Here are a few recommendations for our good service men and women to keep in mind as they make the move.
Adapt to the Style of Others
Military members are trained to utilize a direct, formal, no-frills style of communication. However, in the civilian business environment, this can come off as abrupt, rude or even aggressive.
The business world is made up of a diverse group of individuals, each with their own unique communication style—including some that may dramatically differ from the style you’re accustomed to. Be sensitive to the differences and demonstrate your ability to adjust to meet the other person (or people) where they are. You may need to shift your language, tone, volume or pace to help ease interactions.
Focus on Rapport
Military communication is typically focused on the task at hand. Clarity and precision are two absolute requirements in the high-pressure environment of a combat zone. However, in the business world, there’s generally more of a focus on building relationships and establishing trust.
It’s important to remember that civilian communication tends to be more informal and conversational. Your colleagues and clients want to create a personal (and perhaps even emotional) connection with you. While it’s still a professional environment, discussions may veer off-task from time to time. Recognize that this is an important aspect of building rapport.
In the U.S. military, decisions are made from the top down. However, in the business world, the process of decision-making and problem solving may involve more people and require more time. In theory, the different perspectives and experiences amongst the group will lead to better outcomes.
Former military members may need to practice patience as these conversations take place. While it may feel inefficient, the overall belief is that the organization benefits when more voices are heard.
Request, Rather than Order
In the military, direct orders come from above and those receiving the orders have little room for negotiation. However, the same code does not apply in civilian businesses. Most professionals appreciate requests rather than orders. Asking someone to do something allows them the freedom to accept, decline or renegotiate parameters of the request to ensure they can deliver successfully.
The collaborative nature of the civilian workplace means each individual wants to have a voice in the exchange. You may encounter more pushback at times, but with the right communication, you can usually reach an acceptable compromise.
If you’re transitioning out of military life, the business world is not as foreign as it may feel. Just recognize that you are likely to encounter more emotion and social politics. Most civilian workplaces could benefit from better communication, but you probably won’t whip them into shape by thrusting the military style upon them.