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Yet another bad boss thread (military) ......
Old 02-11-2014, 12:47 PM   #1
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Yet another bad boss thread (military) ......

Sigh. It's so hard, as a parent, watching crummy things happen to your kids that you don't have any control over and can't help with.

Son is in the military, second in command of a very small unit. Current unit commander is a slug, offloads all work onto my son, takes credit when it is good, is quick to point the finger when things don't go well. As one example, It's to the point my son is actually doing all of the commanders reports, as well as his own.

Son is now being passed over for promotion because of the negative view superiors have of him. He can't request a transfer, can't buck the chain of command to express the issues that are occurring.

I am not blind to my son's faults, but he truly is getting the short end of the stick in this situation and I don't know what to suggest to him. Son has received excellent / superior ratings, reviews, and awards prior to the last few months, which I suspect is a big part of the problem. It looks like jealousy on the part of his unit commander is a big factor (both same rank). I can't understand why someone higher up doesn't see some disparity (son's performance going from "good to bad" with a new commander).

I don't know what to suggest; I've never myself been in such a situation. It is all so bizarre. I'm not even really sure why I'm posting this. Just hoping maybe someone here might have an idea or suggestion that I can pass along.
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Old 02-11-2014, 01:02 PM   #2
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The fact that he's in military makes this a very difficult (if not impossible) situation. I have similar boss but I work for megacorp which I can quit anytime. The only thing I can think of is, unless your kid is a career military personnel, he only needs to put up with this for a relatively short time.
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Old 02-11-2014, 01:21 PM   #3
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The fact that he's in military makes this a very difficult (if not impossible) situation.
Unfortunately I feel the same way: that it's probably an impossible situation with no clear way out.

I don't mean for my original post to sound like a whine. I've explained to him that it's a crummy situation but that the world is an unfair place and that, quite often, more unfair things than this happen to other people (accidents, disabilities, disease, premature death of loved ones, etc).

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The only thing I can think of is, unless your kid is a career military personnel, he only needs to put up with this for a relatively short time.
His time with this unit will be over in about a year and a half. The problem is his ratings now will have a pretty big impact if he decides to pursue a military career.
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Old 02-11-2014, 01:23 PM   #4
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The only thing I can think of is, unless your kid is a career military personnel, he only needs to put up with this for a relatively short time.
Even as a careerist, this is a benefit of the military situation. When things get bad like this (and it happens everywhere from time to time), you can take some comfort in the fact that before long, either you or your boss will get transferred somewhere else.

I was in a similar situation a couple of times during my military career, so I know what it's like. Still, all things end eventually, and sooner in the military than in the average megacorp.
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Old 02-11-2014, 01:45 PM   #5
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If your son is in the regular component (commonly referred to as "Active Duty"), he could examine whether service in the Reserve or Guard is an option that would work for him. If he likes his work as a military guy, that may be the fresh start he's looking for. Also, if there is a unit at a location where he (and family, if that applies) would like to put down roots, that is possible in the Reserve or Guard.

I did half my career as a Regular and half as a Reservist and the change at "halftime" was good for me. Both Reserve and Guard have recruiters nationwide who could answer specific questions.
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Old 02-11-2014, 01:51 PM   #6
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I did 21 years in the Air Force and I've been in similar situations with dud supervisors. I didn't make the ending rank I thought I deserved, but that was 12 years ago. It was worth it for my cola adjusted pension. Usually a bad boss will only last for a year, because one of you will get transferred. I'd tough it out, if I were your son. After he retires, he can laugh about it on the first of every month.
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Old 02-11-2014, 01:53 PM   #7
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Curiosity, which branch of service, and what rank?

It's not easy to do, but I know the AF had a system that allowed an individual to fight an 'unjust' efficiency report. Having said that, I not sure I ever heard of anyone successfully doing it.

I would say Greg V's advice is good, if he wants to continue a service career.
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Old 02-11-2014, 01:57 PM   #8
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Usually a bad boss will only last for a year, because one of you will get transferred. I'd tough it out, if I were your son. After he retires, he can laugh about it on the first of every month.
For young person, this experience can be priceless (learns about people he will face throughout his life, builds character per Calvin's dad, ....).
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Old 02-11-2014, 02:29 PM   #9
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This happened to me and I had a chat with my first shirt. It eventually led to a discharge which was best for both the military and myself. 10 years later I am not 10 years closer to a pension but I have travelled the world and obtained a career path on my own terms.

I still had to deal with pesky bosses, afterall they are just people.
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Old 02-11-2014, 07:53 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by braumeister View Post
I was in a similar situation a couple of times during my military career, ...
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Originally Posted by davismills View Post
I did 21 years in the Air Force and I've been in similar situations with dud supervisors.
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This happened to me ....
I don't mean this as a misery loves company kinda thing, but it did give me some comfort knowing maybe this isn't such an unusual situation in the military after all. Thank you to everyone for taking the time to post. It really has helped me to settle myself down a little about the whole situation.

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If your son is in the regular component (commonly referred to as "Active Duty"), he could examine whether service in the Reserve or Guard is an option that would work for him.
The reserve / national guard option is definitely a consideration for him.

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I didn't make the ending rank I thought I deserved .....I'd tough it out, if I were your son. After he retires, he can laugh about it on the first of every month.
This is his argument too. When we are young and inexperienced as to just how tough the real world can be, its hard sometimes to understand how things work. I raised him to think if he worked hard, and smart, and was honest and of good moral character, things would more than likely work out to his benefit. I'm feeling a bit like as a parent I let him down and should have told him from the get-go that the world is a tough place and nice guys get dumped on, rolled over, and finish last.

OK, not really, I know, I say that a bit tongue-in-cheek, but the world really is tough and unfair sometimes.

As to the hanging tough and holding on ref. retirement, that's been the bulk of my messages for the past few days to him. Dad's been like a broken record - "Hold your head up, keep moving forward, be tough, and keep your eye on the goal."

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For young person, this experience can be priceless (learns about people he will face throughout his life, builds character per Calvin's dad, ....).
"Pretty convenient how every time I build character, he saves a couple of hundred dollars." - Calvin shoveling snow after asking his father why they can't buy a snowblower.
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A few thoughts
Old 02-11-2014, 08:54 PM   #11
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A few thoughts

A few things come to kind after reading your post.

My answers are Army centric. Each service does things a bit differently, so please take my comments with a grain of salt if your son serves in the USN, USMC, or USAF.

Also, in situations like this, there typically is a gray area. I imaging you Son's Commander may have a different perspective. The truth probably lies inbetween the two perspectives.

Ok...bottom line: your Son needs to have a one on one session with his Commander and air out there differences. Left alone, this will only get worse.

Second, in the Army, your Son's Commander gets a very small vote on your Sons promotion. As your Son's rater, his vote carries very little water. Especially since they are the same rank. Your Son's senior rater carries a much bigger vote. Even then, one won't get promoted on one rating. Typically you serve 2-5 years in a rank, so, when your records go in front of a centralized board (chances are his rater and senior rater will not be on these boards)' they look at your last 5+ ratings...they look for trends. So if your Son has performed well in the past, does his best with the current situation, and then, when he gets a new rater and senior rater, does well again, chances are he'll get promoted.

As others have said, great thing about the military is you get new jobs and new bosses every few years. This shall pass.

Do believe he needs to confront his Boss if he feels as he does. Chances are he'll earn respect for doing so.

Few other lesser points:

On doing his Commanders reports...that is a #2, XO, Deputies job in most cases. also is how he learns to be a boss/Commander

Lastly, this is a great opportunity. You learn something from everyone. Mostly you learn the good...and apply it your own way. But, more valuable, because no kidding bad bosses are rare (my observation based on many years in the Army), he's learning what not to do when he is in command...he'll never make these same, or similar mistakes

Hope this is helpful...
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Old 02-12-2014, 07:57 AM   #12
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Most of us had at least one bad boss/situation, it's not unique to military, public or private sector. I am glad I waited out the really bad boss in the middle of my career, my career flourished after I got out from under him. And I learned to work with all kinds in my career, an essential skill IMO.

And I was an Army brat, my Dad was transferred every 3-4 years. So he could expect bad CO's to be short lived in the scheme of his overall career. Is that not done anymore? In many other organizations, one can be stuck with a bad boss for much, much longer. Unless there's no light at the end of the tunnel for the OP subject, waiting it out might be good experience in the long run.
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Old 02-12-2014, 01:32 PM   #13
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I empathize, never was in service, but worked for many that were. Following the chain of command was always a big thing for those I worked for.

Probably the best advice I ever received was 'that that does not kill me makes me stronger'. The biggest a$$h*ts I ever worked for made me a better person. Sometimes it took a while to sink in, but these wack jobs motivated me.
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Old 02-12-2014, 06:40 PM   #14
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Snidely,
My background is 21 years commissioned active duty service. USAF, but lots of "joint" time, too.
It sounds like your son is an officer. If he has been passed over for promotion in his primary zone (e.g. this was not an opportunity for an early promotion), then the likelihood that he will be promoted in the future is low. Not zero, but low. He will get at least one more shot at promotion, but the odds are not great (it has always been this way, but the present drawdown has exacerbated the tend). Depending on his present rank, years of service, and his career field he may be offered a chance to remain on active duty until retirement. Of course, he knows all of these things.
These are tough times to get promoted, all of the services are cutting back. On top of that, for nearly a decade the field-grade ranks (esp O-4, and O-5) have had very high promotion rates in most career fields: Those willing to put up with the high OPTEMPO had a very good shot at getting promoted, even with a few reports in their records that, in prior years, would have led to their being nonselected for promotion. Obviously, all these old reports are being looked at anew as early retirement boards, promotion boards, etc are setting the bar high.
Regards the bad boss: All the services have a degree of "protection" in their systems (via a central-board looking at the individual's complete record) meant to protect a person's career from being "killed" by one boss or senior rater, but it ain't perfect (when last I dealt with these things, the Navy's system provided perhaps the least "insulation" from bad chemistry between an officer and the skipper.)
Recommendation: This boss will pass. If your son is offered the chance to remain in the service and he believes he can make it to retirement (even an early retirement, if offered), and if he doesn't hate what he's doing, I would suggest he give this very strong consideration. If that's not the situation, then he should take the best deal he can get and move out with his head held high and look forward to the next big adventure.
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Old 02-15-2014, 12:17 PM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Snidely Whiplash View Post
Sigh. It's so hard, as a parent, watching crummy things happen to your kids that you don't have any control over and can't help with.
Yep. The only help you can provide is your support & love, and usually that's all they're seeking. Problem-solving discussions might be a bonus, but sometimes it's just venting.

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Originally Posted by Snidely Whiplash View Post
Son is in the military, second in command of a very small unit. Current unit commander is a slug, offloads all work onto my son, takes credit when it is good, is quick to point the finger when things don't go well. As one example, It's to the point my son is actually doing all of the commanders reports, as well as his own.
This is how the submarine force works-- the XO's job is to handle the boat's administrative routine (including running the training program) while making the CO look good. The CO's supposed to sit in their stateroom reading tactical publications and mentoring the crew on how to fight the ship, while signing all the pieces of paper that the XO puts on the CO's desk. Ideally the XO runs the whole command while the CO just steps in occasionally.

It's harder to make some COs look good than it might be for others, but if the XO's job was easy then nobody would learn very much from it.

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Son is now being passed over for promotion because of the negative view superiors have of him. He can't request a transfer, can't buck the chain of command to express the issues that are occurring.

I am not blind to my son's faults, but he truly is getting the short end of the stick in this situation and I don't know what to suggest to him. Son has received excellent / superior ratings, reviews, and awards prior to the last few months, which I suspect is a big part of the problem. It looks like jealousy on the part of his unit commander is a big factor (both same rank). I can't understand why someone higher up doesn't see some disparity (son's performance going from "good to bad" with a new commander).
The screening process is not perfect, but I doubt that a passover is based on the last few months of performance. Promotion boards know that some COs grade lower than others, and they consider the context of the commentary. Lukewarm comments from more than one CO would be considered a declining trend, but if just one CO was supremely unhappy then it would be a personality conflict. A bad report from a bad CO (or a known jerk) would be appropriately discounted or even ignored. High praise from a bad CO (or a known jerk) would be a sign that the XO was doing a great job. A faint-praise report from a widely-respected stellar CO would be interpreted as "promote someone else first". A board would never put a lot of weight on a mediocre report from another officer of the same rank.

There are plenty of other factors to consider: whether the unit has had a deployment to carry out its combat mission, how well it's performed over the last couple years, how overstaffed the community may be, what the overall promotion rate to the next rank has been, and the entire military's drawdown. At the ranks above O-4, a failure to select for promotion is more about the nature of the job than the performance of the candidate. Everyone may be qualified (or good at their current job) but there may not be enough promotions to go around, or the job at the next level requires a considerably different skill set.

Your son should just keep doing the best he knows how to do until the tour is over. If he has a trusted mentor (like an old CO who can keep their mouth shut, or someone who's retired and can offer unbiased advice) then he could ask whether he should do anything differently. If another CO takes command then that's a fresh slate for a new batch of performance reports. If not then when your son reaches the end of his tour he can decide whether he wants to continue in the community, whether he's eligible to retire, or whether he'd be happier in the Guard/Reserve.

If I was in his situation and I got a decent follow-on tour offer from the assignment officer then I'd hang on for one more set of orders to see whether morale improves. If the assignment officer only offers an unaccompanied tour to a hardship post... well... that's not really intended as a chance to excel. It's sending a signal how his community feels about him.
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