Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Stereotypes of Veterans in the Workplace

Along with many challenges that veterans face upon transitioning out of the military and entering the civilian sector workforce, there are common misconceptions about veterans. According to a recent poll, while the American public has a positive view of veterans (86 percent responded that Iraq and Afghanistan are a “valuable asset to the country”), stereotypes still abound, with most of the respondents stating that veterans possess a lesser education and that they all have post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD. With these findings, it’s no surprise that many veterans find starting a new civilian career challenging.

Below are five frequent stereotypes about veterans:

Veterans are less educated. Many people believe that those in the military do not possess a higher degree, but in fact the opposite is true. Iraq and Afghanistan veterans are just as educated as civilians their own age, with the percentage of veterans over 25 who possess a Bachelor’s degree about even with their civilian counterparts – 26 percent and 28 percent, respectively. With the recent changes to the G.I. Bill, which allows for military members to continue their higher education with government financial assistance, an even greater number of veterans are taking advantage and furthering their education, earning Bachelor’s, Master’s, or even Doctorate degrees.

Veterans have alcohol/drug problems. A lot of the public are convinced that many military members suffer from alcohol or drug problems more so than than non-veterans. However, according to a study done in February of last year, veterans between the ages of 41-60 were less likely to binge drink than non-military members their own age.

All veterans have PTSD. PTSD, or post-traumatic stress disorder, is a severe anxiety disorder brought upon by a disturbing or stressful situation or environment. With new research that developed on the disorder during the post-Vietnam era and the PTSD’s presence in many war films, many people associate veterans with having the disorder, respectively. Yet among Iraq and Afghanistan veterans, only nine and 20 percent were reported as suffering from the disorder. Of course, this should not make light of those veterans who do struggle with PTSD and the appropriate steps that employers should take to acommodate these veterans, but the rate of those afflicted is not nearly as high as the population believes.

Veterans have anger issues. Many people believe that veterans who do and do not suffer from PTSD have a short fuse, and that the simplest things will set them off in a rage. This leads many to think that veterans have a hard time working with others, especially in a civilian workplace environment. However, the military garners a spirit of teamwork and camaraderie, hardly the environment for anger to develop.

Veterans don’t have transferable skills. Perhaps the biggest stereotype of veterans in the workplace is the fact that they do not belong in the workplace because of their lack of private sector work skills. While veterans do struggle relating their skills to a civilian hiring manager, it’s not because they are under qualified. Veterans possess qualities such as leadership, teamwork, and a respect for authority that put them ahead of the competition. For a more complete list of the skills veterans possess, click here.

Hiring a veteran is not a mistake, and could be one of the smartest decisions your company could make. Educate your employees on the dangers of veteran stereotyping, and find a quality employee in a veteran.


Five Toxic Stereotypes Of Veterans In The Workplace

Poll: America Values Vets but Stereotypes Them

United States Census – Veterans Day 2010

PTSD in Service Members and New Veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars

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