Tom’s top civvy-treatment transition tips

(photo courtesy of McGill-Queen’s University Press and Peter Neary)

Following great interest in Jim McDermott’s post, ex-British Army Tom has sent in some transition tips of his own, this time on how to interact with ‘civvies’.

Some might prove controversial, and I expect some ‘civvy’ come back on this (in fact I encourage it). For example, do some of the points below feed a perception that all ex-military are authoritarian and insensitive? Do they demonstrate the true nature of the civil-military gap?

That said, I also expect that at least some of the points made might resonate with others’ military-to-civilian transition experiences, and you may have some of your own tips to add.

If you feel inspired to comment, please leave a reply below (or on the social media feed that brought you here), or use this link to send in your own experiences and tips. These can be anonymous if you wish.


Tom says:

When I left the Army, it was a bit of a culture shock for me and the civilians I worked with. It took some adjustment, and we all learnt a lot! Here are some key lessons from my early days:

  1. Don’t tell civilians to do something, ask them nicely. Telling them to do something upsets them and causes resentment.
  2. If civilians do what you ask, make a fuss and say thank you.
  3. If you ask a civilian to do something, they will do it when it is convenient to them, unless you tell them it is important.
  4. Some civilians don’t care about their work and will work at a pace to suit themselves to a bare minimum standard. This is a difficult attitude to understand for someone fresh out of the military.
  5. There are things in life more important than work, such as family. This is something civilians can teach you.
  6. Just because civilians work for the same company or in the same department does not mean they will work together, help each other, or have the same objectives.
  7. Stories, jokes & behaviour that impressed your military friends can be unacceptable in the real world. 
  8. A one line email or memo might be efficient, but it also lacks tact and politeness. 
  9. The real world can feel intimidating but it’s just different, so have faith in yourself.

Watch this space for more tips and transition stories.

Meanwhile, while you are here, please consider contributing to the upkeep of this site, which is personally funded.

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