A Veteran’s Day thank you: maintaining perspective

My boss is a veteran of the Panama Invasion.

I didn’t know this when I was first hired since he doesn’t brag about it, but the specialty plates on his truck clued me in.


I picked up on some other hints, too, before he finally disclosed his veteran status to me. He kept his hair cut short. He demonstrated a belief in chain of command. He used military analogies when discussing projects. He delegated tasks and then stepped back while his troops executed his orders.  I really appreciated this hands-off command style after the five years I spent with a micromanaging boss.

My last boss really warped my perspective on work. I went to work each day anticipating a crisis. I was constantly on edge since every detail had to be perfect, but I never knew from one day to the next how she would define perfection. One day, as she was nitpicking an instructional memo that I had spent hours preparing,  arguing with me over the wording, I exploded.

“I don’t understand why this is a big f***ing deal!”

I was horrified once the words left my mouth. I spent the rest of the morning hiding in the coat room, the restroom and other people’s offices. I later went into her office in tears to apologize for my unprofessional language. I was scared that she was going to fire me. Unfortunately, she didn’t. I worked under the same stressful conditions for another two years.

Once I made my escape, I relished my new boss’ management style. However, I still maintained my high-anxiety approach to work. I viewed every issue as a crisis. While I freaked out, my new boss seemed to keep his cool. He didn’t always like the orders he was given, but he was a good soldier and followed them. I saw him being he scrutinized by his boss, pressured by his boss’ boss, and issued unquestionable mandates from his boss’ boss’ boss. Through it all, he stayed calm.

Then one day, he said something that explained his attitude and put my job back in perspective:

“Hey, at least no one is shooting at me.”

Those were the words I needed to hear. I used to have perspective on the stresses and headaches of work. Eight years ago this month, I was serving as a disaster relief volunteer in Louisiana during my year of national service with the Red Cross. I witnessed first-hand the destruction of Hurricane Katrina. I met people who lost everything. All my worries seemed petty in comparison. I had a job, I had a home, and I had my family. When I completed my year, I told myself that I would remember what I had witnessed in order to keep things in perspective.

Unfortunately, I started that other job and forgot. I forgot that no lives were at stake if there was an error in a memo. I forgot that a “crisis” in our office was nothing compared to a natural disaster or a war. I forgot that my job was not a matter of life and death. I forgot all that until my new boss reminded me once more and gave me back my perspective. For that I thank him.

And I thank him for his service.

It’s Day 11. And it’s Veterans Day. Thank you to all of those who have served.

29 thoughts on “A Veteran’s Day thank you: maintaining perspective

  1. Well, yes, not having anyone shooting at you does put things in perspective! But on the other side, having worked for a super micromanaging boss as well as serving in the military, both are stressful situations! 🙂 How neat that you worked for Red Cross and responded to those. I’ve always wanted to be on a response team of that nature.


  2. Like you, sometimes I forget the freedoms I enjoy because I don’t have anyone shooting at me. We have a neighbor who bought the house next door with a VA loan. I call him a baby, because of his age; he’s not yet 30. However, he has seen and felt more pain than most would see in 10 lifetimes. He is the only survivor from his Marine unit. All but he and one other we killed during his tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. Both earned Purple Hearts from their service. Both struggled to leave the war behind. The other committed suicide after his return home, the demons too real.
    With you, I thank the men and women who serve so that I may never experience someone shooting at me.
    Great post!


    1. It’s easy to get caught up in stresses. When we don’t experience it for ourselves, we can only judge how bad our lives our within our own frame of reference. That’s why it’s good to listen to others and hear their stories.


  3. I liked how you explained your stresses and then how the comment from your boss put everything in perspective. Great job putting this story together!


  4. That is good that you served as a disaster relief volunteer, although it must have been so difficult. I also once had a micromanaging boss, so I can relate to how that feels… however, your current boss’s comment, “Hey, at least no one is shooting at me,” certainly does put things in perspective! Really great post 🙂


  5. Such a great post and I love how you skillfully weaved in your honoring Veteran’s Day, your father, and what those things stood for. I have to remind my husband constantly, that I respect his highly stressful job and his dedication to his own work ethic, that he is not, however – saving lives. Sometimes, we all need reminded.


    1. I imagine when you have a strong work ethic, you easily forget that you aren’t saving lives because you still want to do the best job possible. However, it’s good you are there to remind him that it’s okay to make mistakes and take a break when he needs it.


  6. What a fantastic post! I wish all bosses could have that sort of perspective. I worked for a toxic bully of a boss and it was traumatizing, so give yourself a break. It sounds like you are working with a good leader now. Great, interesting, well structured post.


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