The Importance of Integrity and Respect in Army
The third and sixth core army values are two of the most important values to soldiers in the army. Respect is the third core army value of the seven. Respect is a two lane street. Junior soldiers respect their leaders by trusting them to solve problems and not abuse their power, and non commissioned officers trust the junior soldiers to communicate their issues in a quick and efficient manner. When this line of communication and control breaks down, trust breaks down across the entire group involved. With a lack of respect, there is a lack of trust, and with a lack of trust, there is micromanagement, a decrease in overall morale, and a lack of confidence in and among soldiers. Respecting the people that we work with every day promotes trust, increased morale, and cohesion within the working environment. Integrity is the sixth core army value. Integrity is the validity of one’s word. Integrity can be eroded through actions, behaviors, and words. With a lack of integrity, that leads to a lack of trust through a failure to follow through with instructions, a failure to be honest, or a failure to maintain a pattern of behavior. This lack of trust can also lead to micromanagement, a decrease in morale, and lackluster work completion.
These consequences of a lack of respect and integrity can lead to severe outcomes. Micromanagement can lead to longer work days, increased stress, alcoholism, depression, and even heart attacks. When everything a worker is doing is micromanaged, they don’t want to act with initiative to complete tasks for fear of doing it wrong in the eyes of the micromanaging supervisor. This leads to longer work days because the tasks have to get done before we can go home. Being micromanaged increases stress and stress related illnesses. The fear of doing something wrong or not to their liking and the fear of reprisal because of that can exponentially compound. Leading to rapid deterioration of autonomy in workers to avoid the stress involved in making their own decisions. This can lead to past events coming up and creating larger stressors and severely impacting the worker.The most common way to unstress in the military is alcohol. According to research by Trice and Sonnenstuhl done in 1990, this can be attributed to a couple of factors. Social availability at work paradigm contributes to more alcohol consumption for stress related to work when coworkers drink alcohol. Work stressors such as dangerous physical work environments, interpersonal conflict in the workplace, and even low pay increase the risk of alcoholism in workers.Alcoholism, stress illnesses, and long work days can easily exacerbate significant problems like depression and suicidal ideations. This poses a significant problem in the military due to the stress involved, culture of alcohol use, and dangerous situations we work in. This is a factor in most of the 22 suicides every day among military members. Harvard Medical School instructor Jonathan D. Quick co-authored a book titled Preventive Stress Management in Organizations. In it, he says that, “the leadership qualities of ‘bad’ bosses over time exert a heavy toll on employees’ health.” In the Whitehall studies conducted by Sir Michael Marmot, ‘the higher an employee’s rank and autonomy is, the lower their morality is to cardiovascular diseases.’ So basically, the more micromanagement that goes on, the higher the risk for heart attacks are of those being micromanaged.
A lack of respect and integrity between leaders and soldiers can also erode the cohesiveness of a unit. This can lead to increased distrust in leadership, decreased morale, an increase in disrespect between parties involved, a carefree attitude towards consequences, and an increase in the potential for accidents. A distrust in the competence of leadership is extremely damaging to the work environment. Once a soldier distrusts a leaders capabilities, they will avoid going to that leader for anything. They won’t ask for guidance, to talk, or with their problems. This is especially true when the leader throws it back in their face, bringing up a situation later that they knew nothing about and calling names. This destroys any trust in the professionality of their leadership abilities that might have remained. The soldier will avoid confrontation by just straight up avoiding the leader. This can result in a ‘hide to survive’ attitude or ‘look busy to survive’ techniques. This can be characterized by volunteering for tasks a significant distance away, completing busy work just to work, and extended smoke or bathroom breaks. This can create a lot of stress on the soldier, and not good complete the mission stress. This excessive amounts of bad stress will lower morale. Whether for five minutes, or if continued, for five months, lowered morale affects everybody.
An unhappy worker just working near happy workers can spread the negative attitude. An unhappy worker works slower because they don’t have the mental capacity to focus on working quicker. So one person’s bad day can turn into everyone’s bad day that just keeps going slowly. When a soldier feels like a leader is unfit to solve problems and get things done, they sometimes bring that up. It usually happens at high stress moments and almost always is immediately denounced as disrespect and threatened with negative actions if they do not fix it. This can make it seem like the soldier does not get to express their side, and that the leader is using their power to silence any opposing views. Thus, the soldier feels like they need to bring it up with others around so their voice is heard in a fair light. This means getting more people involved, which to the leader seems like more disrespect. This will continue until a significant change occurs. When a soldier feels unheard, ignored, and like the leadership is failing, they stop caring about imposed consequences from the leaders. Especially when the soldier should have as much say in a situation as the leader, the soldier will not care about the consequences of not doing it the way the leader wants. This could be written off as forgetfulness, being told to do something else from someone else, or even just an accident. The decreased mental capacity for focusing on work, lack of worrying about consequences, and sometimes other factors like being in a rush so everyone can go home, leads to a severe increase in potential for accidents. Especially in aviation, accidents can be deadly. Accidentally leaving an old chip detector attached after installing a new one, falling asleep while flying, and even just getting incorrect hardware can all end up with deadly consequences.
The dangers and consequences of a lack of respect and integrity are severe and numerous. Ranging from having a bad day to accidentally bringing a helicopter down to purposefully ending a life to get away from the issues, the entire army needs to maintain respect and integrity to avoid collapse.Luckily, all is not lost when there is a failure of respect or integrity. Respect can be re-earned by soldiers by doing the right thing, doing what they’re told to, and taking care of issues at the lowest level. Respect can be re-earned by leaders by talking to soldiers without throwing around their authority, by leading by example, and by recognizing when it’s time to be a leader and when it’s time to give some autonomy to the soldiers. Autonomy of soldiers should belong to them when they aren’t at work. When it is time to work, leaders should be at the front, teaching, talking, and guiding. Soldiers should be engaged, excited, and listening. Everyone should want to come to work to better themselves, not worried that they will be chewed out for misstepping or trying to get their point across. Integrity is a little bit harder to repair when it’s been lost. A person’s integrity is a lot like a glass vase. When it is broken, it takes a lot of effort to be put back together. Even once it is back together, the cracks from where it was broken are still visible. Eventually with a lot of polishing and work, the vase can look almost new, but the cracks are still underneath. Integrity can only be broken and fixed by the person who’s it is. It can only be fixed by saying the truth, doing the right thing, and treating others how they want to be treated.
On the positive side, a unit that has respect and integrity in, for, and amongst the leaders and soldiers, can complete tasks given to them quickly, efficiently, with little oversight. Higher up leaders can trust that when they give an overarching objective, the lower leaders can task out the necessary steps to make sure it can be accomplished. There is little left to the imagination as to what needs to be completed because leaders respect their soldiers enough to make the process known to all as to what is going on. Problems are brought up and solved quickly before they become larger problems, tasks are completed in an efficient and timely manner, and the objective is completed as expected by the upper echelons of leadership. Soldiers trust that when they bring up an issue, whether personal, professional, or otherwise, that their leaders will help them solve it or point them in the direction of a solution. Leaders trust that their soldiers will come to them with problems, ideas, and potentially dangerous conditions. Soldiers trust their leaders to listen when concerns are brought up. Soldiers are more capable, useful, and imaginative when their leadership gives them the chance to try something. General (Retired) George S Patton once said, ‘Never tell people how to do things. Tell them what to do and they will surprise you with their ingenuity’. When a damper indicator is frozen and you need to pull it out to service it, sure you could pull it in the hangar wait for it to warm up, and fix it. Maybe the soldier has an idea for using some 550 cord to make a pulley system to pull it out so the damper can be fixed and go fly. The only thing stopping a potentially good solution from being very effective is micromanagement and the belief that the more experienced leaders hold the best solutions one hundred percent of the time. The most successful armies in history were not micromanaged. They were told what needed done, and they got it done. This kind of unit is well-disciplined. To do what needs to be done, and to do what can be done later, now. Acting now on limited information is better than acting in a week on all of the information. The soldiers have self-discipline to complete the task and find another task. The leaders have the self-discipline to let the soldiers do what needs to be done.
So to reiterate, respect and integrity, the third and sixth army core values respectively, are two of the most important core army values to live. Without them, a unit can enter a spiral of collapse. With respect and integrity though, a unit becomes one of the strongest, fastest, most well prepared unit around. Able to complete anything given to them through the trust given to everyone within the unit. Trust between leaders and soldiers, is one of the most basic relationships in the army. When that relationship fails, it can ruin the entire unit. Too many bosses have been toxic to the work environment that most people I have encountered do not want to stay in. They want to finish their contract and get out. Every single one cites the leadership as the reason they want to get out. People do not quit because the job is hard. They quit because their boss makes the job infinitely more difficult to complete. Working together to complete the mission under a competent leader can be the difference between someone who views it as a job or as a lifestyle. When it thrives, people come to work excited to do their job, to better themselves, to learn, and to be a part of the team we have created.
This drive to be a part of something better is integral to the building blocks of the army.
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