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Desperately seasick in the Navy

Dear Office-Politics,

I am having an awful time at my job. I’m in the U.S. Navy, so I can’t quit. And AWOL or a dishonorable discharge is out of the question.

However, the problems I’m having are not specifically military ones. I would just like to know what to do in future situations. I can trust maybe 2 people in my office of 15. I was late the other day and Radio supervisor acted like my buddy when I came in. He said that the Operations supervisor wanted to write me up but that he was behind me. I find out weeks later through a reputable source that he was the one that wanted to write me up. I also found out that my previous supervisor of the TV. Department wrote an e-mail to the others in the office claiming that I was basically a worthless piece of ****.

While I was in the TV department I did everything that was required of me but nothing more because I felt like I was wasting my time.. I even taught him how to do things on multiple occasions! The leadership is very bad and everyone knows it. The Operations Super is also no angel. She will also act like your friend and just turn on you at any moment.

My original assessment was that because I’m young, smart and getting out of the military soon, the older ones are jealous they didn’t make the right choices. However, if enough people tell you that you suck, you might start to believe it yourself. I know I’m not lazy but I can’t even find enjoyment in my daily duties if this isn’t what I want to do for life. I’ve worked with people who think I’m God on earth when I’m motivated. Do I have a chance of rectifying the situation or do I lay low until I can separate?

Thank you for your time,


dr. john burton

Dear Seasick,

You don’t mention how long it is until you may leave the Navy, but that is an important consideration here. I would not recommend just keeping your head down and waiting out your time if it is much more than a year, but letting things lie may be the best option. Remember, however, that even if you don’t have direct confrontations with the people you work with, a stressful environment can take its toll on your physical, psychological and spiritual health.

In the event that you decide that you must do something to address the situation I would advise you to proceed with great caution. The first step might be to find a person you trust who is outside of the office in which you work, but who knows you and the military well. Lay out the situation to that person as honestly as you can and seek advice from them about how to proceed. One of the merits of this course of action is that such a person can help you to recognize your own contribution, if any, to the situation you find yourself in. Changing yourself or your own behaviour is always the easiest way to rectify difficult human relationships. The Canadian military has introduced conflict resolution services into its human resource policy. You might investigate whether the U.S. Navy has similar resources available. Even a conversation with someone in such a capacity may be helpful.

I have not offered much in the way of concrete advice because the situation you have briefly described sounds like it is a complex mix of personalities, history and military culture. Given that you feel quite isolated in this environment you will do well to proceed with caution, if at all.

I wish you well in sorting through this situation. Thanks for writing to Office-Politics.

Yours truly,

John Burton

Dr. John Burton LL.B. M.B.A. M.Div. Ph.D. is an ethicist, mediator, lawyer and theologian. He has taught alternative dispute resolution at Queen’s Law School and Ethics at the Schulich School of Business. John is currently located in Prince Rupert, B.C., Canada, working with Canada’s aboriginal communities.

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