Today, I want to talk about officer politics in the Army. I spent about 12 years as a commissioned officer between the Active Duty Army and Army National Guard. While I enjoyed the experience overall, there were several things about it that drove me absolutely crazy. One of those things in particular was the “politics” that you had to deal with.
I’ll be the first to admit that EVERY organization, military and non-military alike have “office politics” or “politics” that you have to deal with. It’s pretty normal in most jobs, whether it’s a volunteer organization or corporate America. All organizations have figureheads, customs, courtesies, informal rules, jargon, and networking.
Some organizations (both inside and outside the military) keep the politics to a minimum, while other organizations thrive on it.
Some people are masters at the political shuffle (as I call it). Some folks even enjoy it (not me). And some people despise it more than anything else.
When I think of officer politics in the Army, here are just a few things that come to mind:
- People backstabbing others to excel their own career
- Acting one way in front of a superior and differently around other superiors, peers or subordinates
- Being forced to attend extracurricular events and mandatory fun, even if you have no desire to do so
- Having your spouse be forced to act/dress/talk a certain way so you don’t get blackballed
- Keeping your views and opinions to yourself, even when something is messed up or wrong
- Doing what you need to do to make sure you are “liked” by the in crowd
- Avoiding certain people who have been blackballed by the organization
Once again, this is just a short list of things you can expect to deal with. I can tell you that it will vary significantly based upon your job, rank, superiors, and unit. Some senior leaders hate politics and others love it.
When you talk to other officers, there are really two viewpoints about the subject. Some officers will tell you to avoid the politics at all costs and just let your performance speak for itself. Other officers are enthralled by the idea and encourage you to be political.
To have a successful military career, and enjoy life, I think you have to be somewhere in the middle of the road. I think it’s best to be good at your job and then figure out “how” political you want to be with your peers, superiors and subordinates.
I’ve met plenty of people who were marginal performers who excelled their career by being with the in crowd and always saying the right thing. And I’ve even met some superstars that were held back in their career because they refused to play the political game. Ultimately, you have to decide what is best for you and your own career.
What do you think about officer politics in the Army? What do you like and dislike? What do you recommend to other officers serving in the Army? Leave a comment below to share your thoughts. I look forward to hearing from you.