Here’s a problem one of my website visitors asked me about a couple days ago.
“I have a terrible relationship with my Platoon Sergeant. He is an AGR Readiness NCO and also a Platoon Sergeant, however, all I really see is AGR. He does none of the PSG duties, however is respected and known by our battalion leaders and our support battalion’s leaders. I cannot change our relationship through my relentless efforts. I understand that I am young, female, inexperienced; however I am a very hard worker, open, and willing to take feedback.
He has spent most drills in his office, letting other senior NCOs fulfill the PSG job. This makes an unstable work environment for me, and I do not get the support or mentorship I need to become a better officer. We can go through drills with saying less than 2 sentences to each other. I have tried counseling about communication. I have tried to pull advice out of him. I have tried many things. And yet, I know this is still MY problem as the Platoon Leader.
It’s very frustrating that he is consumed by his AGR job and has no efforts in helping me to become better. I know it’s not about me, but in order for my platoon to be good, I need to be as good as I can be as a leader. Any advice you can offer would be greatly appreciated. I have talked to my BOLC instructor and he suggested that there might be nothing I can do. I have talked to my Commander who suggested I talk to my Platoon Sergeant, which as mentioned above, I have done–frankly, quite a few times.
~ Name withheld for privacy
First of all, I’m sorry to hear that you are having this awful experience in your first real Officer job. I don’t wish that upon anyone. That being said, this does happen from time-to-time and while it might stink right now, it can turn out to be a blessing in disguise later on down the road. I say that because you will learn a lot from this bad experience, even if it’s what not to do.
Based upon what you told me, here are some things I recommend you do. I recommend you try all of these different things, if needed. Don’t give up too soon. You might not see results overnight, but you can turn a bad Platoon Leader – Platoon Sergeant relationship into a good one with a solid game plan, a little work, and perseverance.
# 1 Take Responsibility for Your Own Personal Development
Yes, your Platoon Sergeant is supposed to teach you what right looks like. But, ultimately you are responsible for your own personal development. Don’t let his lack of mentorship justify you not growing as a leader. Cowgirl up and create your own action plan to develop as a leader. At a bare bones minimum, read 15-20 every day, find a mentor outside of your chain of command, attend leadership workshops, listen to audio programs, etc. And remember, you can learn just as much from a bad mentor as you can from a good mentor.
Many Army leaders expect someone to sit down with them and mentor them. In 999 out of 1000 cases this simply DOES NOT happen. Most of what you will learn is through watching others. You might get counseled in writing (if you are lucky), but don’t expect ANYONE to EVER spend much time teaching and mentoring you. Ultimately, that’s your job.
# 2 Educate Yourself About What a Platoon Sergeant is Supposed to Do
Many new Platoon Leaders don’t actually know what the Platoon Leader is supposed to do and what the Platoon Sergeant is supposed to do. In case you don’t know, I will give you a quick run over. The Platoon Leader writes OPORDs, plans missions, and is responsible for the collective training. The Platoon Sergeant makes sure the beans and bullets are taken care of. And they make sure the Squad Leaders/Section Leaders have the resources they need to execute the mission assigned by the Platoon Leader. They’re also responsible for individual training.
# 3 Talk with a Trusted Platoon Leader and Ask Them What They Do to Work Well with their Platoon Sergeant
Another idea is to have lunch with one of your peers and find out what they are doing to work well with their Platoon Sergeant. Pick the Platoon Leader that you think has the best relationship with their Platoon Sergeant and ask them for a few tips.
# 4 Do His Initial Counseling in Writing the Next Time You are Together
I’m not sure if you ever did his initial counseling in writing, but if you haven’t, please do so immediately. Let him know in writing what you expect of him and let him know what will happen if he exceeds and/or fails to meet your standards.
# 5 Consider Getting Some Input from the Battalion CSM or 1SG
Whenever I had difficulty dealing with a NCO, I would occasionally talk to the Battalion CSM, my unit 1SG, or a trusted senior NCO to get some advice. I never said bad things about the other person, but I would ask them lots of questions and get some really good ideas. If your Platoon Sergeant is real close with your unit’s Battalion CSM or Company 1SG, I would highly suggest going OUTSIDE your unit and talking with another trusted NCO, so there isn’t any backlash.
# 6 Find a Different Mentor
While your Platoon Sergeant is “supposed” to be your primary trainer and mentor; it doesn’t always work out that way. As I mentioned earlier, you are ultimately responsible for your own personal development. And if you want a mentor, it’s your job to find one. When I first started out, my mentors were BOOKS.
As I met new people I respected, I would pick their brain whenever I could. I also believe that we can all learn something from EVERYONE we come in contact with. Keep an open mind and study what people do wrong and right. You can learn a lot by observing everyone you meet.
# 7 Be the Lone Wolf
While I don’t recommend this to too many people, in some cases you might need to be the lone wolf. What I mean by this is you might need to go around your Platoon Sergeant and work with the Squad Leaders (as a last resort). Ultimately, the success of the platoon is on your Soldiers. If you’ve tried everything, and I mean everything, and the two of you can’t work it out, you might need to go around him.
# 8 Meet with Your Commander and 1SG
If nothing else works, I suggest you meet with your Platoon Sergeant, Company Commander and 1SG at one time. Tell them that you want to improve your relationship with your PSG, but nothing seems to be working. Don’t make your Platoon Sergeant look bad, but let your CO and 1SG know you are having some communication problems and show them that you want to fix it and improve your relationship. A good Command Team should be able to sort this out in no time. Yes, it could backfire on you, but I would suggest trying it if nothing else I mentioned worked for you.
# 9 Don’t Burn Your Bridges
As a final tip I want to remind you not to burn your bridges. If the NCO is real popular within the chain of command, you really don’t want to go after them with all your might and end up burning your own bridges in the process. Sometimes you might just have to wait it out and eventually you or your Platoon Sergeant will get reassigned.
I wish you all the best during these tough times. Thanks for visiting my website and good luck straightening things out with your Platoon Sergeant.
If any of my website visitors have any other ideas, please leave a comment and let us know about them. If you have any questions, you can post them here too.