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Reintegration | Reunion and Work

Like other areas of your life, your work environment may be somewhat different when you return. You may be worried about changes that have taken place and how you'll fit back into the organizational picture. Someone else has assumed your role, or at least "taken up the slack," in your absence. If you were a supervisor, decisions have been made by whomever fulfilled your role that you now will have to "live with." You'll also experience a change of pace and activity in your workday. That is, you'll be required to shift from your deployment schedule and activities back into "business as usual."

If you'll apply the same ideas we've discussed throughout this booklet to your work situation, your readjustment should go relatively smooth. Once again, focus on going slow. Specifically, talk with colleagues and supervisors to learn of changes and the rationale for those changes. Just as you were encouraged not to question your spouse's judgment in the decisions she or he reached, do not be overly critical of your fellow workers and your supervisory chain. Just as in the situation in your family environment, you were not there at the time, and you do not know everything that went into the decision-making process. In any event, what can you realistically do other than accept decisions that have been made and move on? You can't change the past.

In addition to coming to grips with decisions which have been made in your work environment, be prepared for the possibility that some colleagues may harbor a degree of resentment. Why? One reason could be that from their perspective, they've assumed an arduous workload due to your absence. Now that you've been gone for several weeks or months, perhaps you're going to take at least a couple of weeks off work just when they want you to come back and start "pulling your weight" again! From your perspective it makes perfect sense that you're entitled to some time off. You've worked long hours, to include weekends and holidays. You've endured the challenges associated with functioning in a deployed environment, and you've been away from your family and friends. The issue here is not whose perception is "right" and whose perception is "wrong." The issue is simply that you need to be prepared for the possibility that you may encounter some resentment when you return to work.

If you encounter resentment, how will you deal with it? One response, and a very tempting one, would be to "give them a piece of your mind" about how unfair they are being. This might temporarily relieve your hurt and anger as you "set them straight". However, the impact on your audience, I think you'll agree, would probably be an increase in resentment. Remember that your co-workers' perception and experience of your deployment is very different than yours. At any rate, a more helpful response could be something like this: "You're entitled to your point of view. If I were in your position, I might see it that way too. I appreciate the work you did to cover for all of us who were deployed. I'm glad to get back into a familiar daily work routine and to be able to have dinner with my family each night and sleep in my own bed again."

There is another potential source of co-worker resentment, or at least irritation, amongst your colleagues you would be wise to avoid. Specifically, you may be tempted to entertain your co-workers with "deployment war stories." To a point, your colleagues will likely be interested in hearing about your experiences, especially if they ask. Once they've reached their "saturation point," however, and that point will be different for each individual, it's time to shift the conversation to another topic. Make sure you are just as interested in hearing about what interesting things they have been doing during your deployment.

Even though there's a limit to how much your colleagues want to hear about your deployment experiences, you'll no doubt want to reflect on your experiences for awhile. When you're sitting in your duty section perhaps feeling a little "underwhelmed" as you look back on the "good old days," remember your deployment was another time and place, and you need to live in the "here and now." Your challenge, in short, is to size up the post deployment work environment and develop a way to smoothly transition back into your work environment.

And finally, another work environment challenge you may encounter when you return to the workplace is staff turnover. As you know, in any period of several weeks or months, some folks in a military unit will PCS away and others will arrive. In terms of the newcomers, you and they are an "unknown quantity" to each other. For that reason, you'll need to establish your credibility with them, and vice versa. This is especially true if you are in a supervisory role. Also, you'll need to learn to work together effectively as a new team.



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