On Active Duty Seen As Troublemaker!

Question:

I reviewed your web site and found most of the information on that site to be useful. That is why I am writing to you. I am currently on active duty. I am enlisted and in the USAF. My current position is that I am the Medical Readiness Non Commissioned Officer in Charge. How I got to this current job position is that I was originally recruited from another base to be a paramedic. Once I got to my current assignment I was not well received and was the victim of a political game. I was falsely accused of over medicating a patient with morphine.

I filed an IG complaint and a congressional inquiry. Needless to say the people that orchestrated the political game were very good at lying and providing deception. Because of how I have been treated in the past I am now seen as a troublemaker and am the subject of many rumors, and malicious lies. The enlisted person that is the superintendent (who was also mentioned in the congressional inquiry) is now orchestrating another political game to try and get me fired and possibly kicked out of the military. Needless to say I feel powerless to challenge this mans lies and deceptions. Because of his position he has the ability to influence people to provide statements against people even though the statements are false. My chain of command (officers and above) see him as a senior NCO and therefore credible. I have tried getting legal counsel, however because I am in the military I am told, “That is how it is supposed to be”. Please help.

Signed,

EMS is not just a job; it’s a way of life.


Answer:

DearĀ EMS is not just a job; it’s a way of life.:

I can imagine that it is easy to feel helpless when it seems you are outnumbered in a military workplace situation! I hope I can share some helpful thoughts.

Your message had, as a subject line, “Verbal abuse/Hostile Work environment.” Apparently there are a number of problems going on. I don’t have ready contacts in the military to provide resource material about the rights of military personnel. However, I do know of many military members who have successfully challenged workplace problems. In some cases they engaged their own attorney, in others they used the HR resources of the military.

What we suggest to people in private sector workplaces would apply here: Develop a report that can be copied as many times as you need it, which details the situation and your concerns. You may want to make it chronological, with dates, conversations, witnesses and the impact it had on you emotionally and mentally. That latter part is a key issue to show that the situation has a negative and harmful impact. Use this report when you contact potential helpful resources either in the USAF or outside it.

If you have personnel evaluations from your former post that were very positive, include those to show that you had no problems before now. If, on the other hand, you had some problems in other assignments, that would lessen your ability to show bias of some kind here. If you can enlist the aid of senior NCOs in your former assignment, perhaps they could verify your skills and overall ability. In your current assignment, identify the people who DO support you or at least who are not negative about you, and name them as witnesses to your general ability.

I have to tell you that I tend to doubt that even a senior NCO could get every single person to lie for him. You wouldn’t lie about someone else for him, and you can bet there are others who feel the same way. Perhaps there are some who would support you if you took your information to whatever USAF resource deals with personnel matters of this nature. As I mentioned, you may find it helpful to at least consult on a preliminary basis with a civilian attorney. If an attorney tells you that it’s “just the way the military is”, it may be that he or she is simply using that to avoid getting involved with the case. That probably means they see it from a perspective that you do not have; and you may find it helpful to try to see their perspective. Question them about it and ask for honest, direct evaluation.

The one thing you can certainly do is to focus on your work to such an extent that there is no doubt about your knowledge and skills. Be cautious about doing anything outside the normal protocols. Seek advice if you have any questions at all. Ensure that you do not provide anyone with a reason to make complaints. That’s not being overly cautious, it’s just being a careful employee. Is there a chance you could return to your former work or find another assignment now? That may be your best option.

This next thought may not work at all for your situation: Have you considered talking to your senior NCO and telling him about the pressure you’re feeling from the current situation, then asking him if there is something you can do to restore a better working relationship with him? It may be that he would give you insight into the nature of his apparent dislike for you or distrust of you. Or, he might point out times when he has had concerns about you; and you could either refute the statements or learn from them and correct the issues. Certainly no good comes from being so polarized that you and he can’t talk to each other.

You say you had an IG investigation of another case. Perhaps the investigation can be used to support your contention that there is unfairness. But that still leaves the issue of why it is happening. It is rare for someone to simply be picked at random to be the victim of dislike by a boss; military or not. So, something must have happened, or something must still be happening, to create hostility between you. Perhaps if you can go the extra mile to repair that situation, it would help you all the way around.

I do believe, however, that you would find it useful to assemble a package of material to clearly show the current situation. You may also want to decide what changes you think are needed to make things better. Then, challenge yourself to see if there is anything you can do to improve the situation on your own.

I hope these thoughts will at least start your thinking as you develop a plan of action. It’s true that the military can be a formidable maze to work within when you’re trying to solve problems. But, with focused efforts and a resolve on your part to be as above reproach as possible, you might be able to develop quite a package to show that unfairness exists and hurts the entire program. If not, you might be able to identify the core causes of the problems and see ways to improve them. Best wishes as you deal with this and continue in your career.

You are right: no job should be just a job, but a way of life. Maintaining that thought is instrumental to the spirit we call WEGO.

Tina Lewis Rowe