3 HR Practices to Consider on Veteran’s Day

Another update from the Jungle…..

This Saturday, November 11th, we will celebrate Veteran’s Day. This national holiday originated after World War I to commemorate the war which officially ended at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month in 1918. Since then, the holiday has expanded to commemorate all military service personnel in our country’s history.

In recent years, the solemnity of the occasion has been obscured by a tendency to label every military person as a “hero.” But a “hero” is an idealization. So labeling all military personnel as “heroes” can make it more difficult for these individuals to admit they need help with mental health issues arising from their days in the service.

For almost two decades, our all-volunteer military has cycled repeatedly through war zones in Afghanistan and Iraq, as well as many other parts of the world. The length of the wars means that they have repeatedly switched between combat and peace time deployments. This cycle has greatly increased mental health strains on active duty individuals, veterans and their families. Those issues don’t go away when an individual leaves the military for civilian life.

Employers who hire veterans can ease the transition with these 3 HR practices.

  1. Support mental health programs for employees. Veterans (and other employees) often avoid treatment out of fear that they will be unfairly stigmatized as “crazy.” More employees will seek help if senior management actively supports use of an employee assistance program (EAP) and the mental health benefits covered in most health insurance policies.
  2. Ensure that anti-discrimination, anti-harassment, and anti-bullying policies are enforced with the goal of limiting the potential for workplace violence. Employees dealing with mental health issues, such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), may be more likely to react inappropriately when facing a perceived threat. (Not all veterans develop PTSD and not all PTSD sufferers are veterans. Domestic violence survivors and residents of high-crime neighborhoods often have PTSD.)
  3. Review how your company handles Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requests for accommodations.  Some employees may function better in a quiet, secluded corner rather than in crowded, noisy cubicles. Other employees may flourish if they can sometimes work remotely. A flexible approach is more likely to ensure your company keeps good employees, including veterans.

This Veteran’s Day, let’s honor our veterans by treating them like the veterans of former wars were treated: men and women who did their duty and then returned to peace-time employment. Help them transition to civilian employment with enlightened practices for handling mental health issues. It will be good for all employees.

If your company is struggling with HR issues, Corporate Compliance Risk Advisor can help you create HR policies that are appropriate for your company’s size and then serve as a resource to your staff as the policies are implemented.

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Happy Veteran’s Day!

Another update from the Jungle….

veteransNicole, the HR manager, is planning another morale boosting event. Her first effort was the Halloween party a couple weeks ago which ended on a sour note when some of the costumes exceeded her expectations and the president’s tolerance.

Nicole is now working on her Veteran’s Day celebration. Ever the optimist, Nicole decides on a pot luck lunch with a patriotic theme. She announces that during the luncheon, they will honor employees who served in the military.

As usual, the whine of the day comes from Steve who says he’ll boycott the party if there’s no beer. Nicole says no alcohol will be served since everyone has to work after lunch. She’s beginning to wonder if Steve would be happier working for a different sort of employer.

On the morning of the party, Ruth stops by the break room to look at the decorations and fixates on the red paper poppies
that adorn the middle of each table. Ruth says that displaying red poppies encourages the use of
image048illegal drugs because everyone knows that heroin comes from poppies. Nicole retorts that everyone knows red poppies symbolize the military dead in World War I. Shaken but undeterred, Nicole finishes the decorations as people wander in for lunch.

Almost immediately, there’s a problem in the buffet line. The employees split into two (almost equal) camps arguing about the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and whether the president should send troops to fight in Syria. Then someone says the U.S. needs stronger border controls to keep out illegals and terrorists. This provokes the Hispanic workers who angrily deny being “illegals”; the Muslims who say that they aren’t terrorists; and the Indians with H1B visas who work in the IT department and complain that they haven’t stolen jobs from Americans.

What should Nicole do next?

  1. She can forge ahead with the plan to honor the military veterans, although this now seems risky since half the employees appear to be in an anti-war camp.
  2. She can sneak out of the break room and hide in her office until after lunch.
  3. She can hold an impromptu educational discussion on the company’s anti-discrimination policies and appreciating diversity in the workforce.

Nicole’s first two attempts to boost morale on a limited budget haven’t gone as well as she would have liked but there’s still time before the holiday season ends. Stay tuned for more adventures with Nicole.

If your company is struggling with HR issues, Corporate Compliance Risk Advisor can help you create HR policies that are appropriate for your company’s size and then serve as a resource to your staff as the policies are implemented.

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