Military Personnel Will Negotiate

By University Alliance

Military personnel are used to operating in a controlled environment where the common answers to questions involve a terse “Yes, ma'am,” or “No, sir”  and where orders aren't questioned.  When veterans are off duty, though, they are used to taking advantage of discounts or privileges that are offered to them as a benefit of their service.  Negotiation is a part of the fabric of military life, though it is usually after work hours. 

Private sector employees work in almost the opposite way.  Because of this difference, veterans may feel confused when they enter the private sector and may benefit from negotiation training or conflict resolution training.  In the civilian world, some negotiation is part of accepting a new organizational position or a task.  With the difference between the civilian and the military world, veterans need to be prepared to apply their negotiation techniques in their work life. 

For service members entering the private workforce, remembering these tips about negotiation will go a long way toward the adjustment to civilian life:

  • Most employers are looking for a “win/win” agreement, one where both sides compromise during their negotiations to get the best results.  Taking an inflexible position will not ultimately benefit the service member in the private sector.  Look for ways to compromise on issues that aren't as important to the position or task.
  • Veterans must choose their "battles" with their managers and co-workers.  While it may be tempting to try to negotiate each and every step along the way – whether salary, work hours, tasks or who is going to pay for lunch – this may be viewed as being uncooperative. Having a positive attitude and strategy and using a bit of social finesse is helpful.  Taking a conflict resolution class may help a veteran to discern when to negotiate and when to simply cooperate. 
  • Unlike military life, veterans should take advantage of negotiating their salary, job description, responsibilities, employment benefits and work schedule.  Private sector employers do expect that questions will be asked and negotiation may be required.  When an employer offers a job, that is exactly what it is – an “offer.”  While some offers are more firm than others, especially a first position out of the military, subsequent positions may offer more flexibility and options.  Remember to think creatively about how to improve the salary or terms of employment.  If working from home one day a week would make the difference, then ask for that.  Most employers are willing to be flexible to encourage you to take the position.

Veterans bring a unique set of skills and experiences to the marketplace.  Though assignments are not generally negotiated in the military, they are in the private sector.  It is critical to remember that while negotiating terms for a private sector career is appropriate, it must be done respectfully with a goal to both get good terms for the employee and to be cooperative with the employer at the same time.  In the end, veterans have a great deal to offer and should feel comfortable negotiating for their market value.  The greatest success in negotiation comes when a “win/win” agreement is struck and both the employer and the veteran feel that they have won the "battle".

Category: Negotiations