Sunday, May 26, 2013

A MILITARY CAREER IN THE NAVY - ATTITUDE MATTERS MORE THAN APTITUDE

A MILITARY CAREER IN THE NAVY
ATTITUDE MATTERS MORE THAN APTITUDE
Musings
By
VIKRAM KARVE

Disclaimer:
1. Please read this only if you have a sense of humour.
2. All stories in this blog are a work of fiction. The characters do not exist and are purely imaginary. Any resemblance to persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.
3. No part of this Blog may be reproduced or utilized in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical including photocopying or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the Blog Author Vikram Karve who holds the copyright.
Copyright © Vikram Karve 2013 all rights reserved


PROLOGUE

Long back, more than 15 years ago, a young boy, accompanied by his parents came to see me at my home in Pune where I was spending my annual leave.

The boy, 15, studying in 11th Class, wanted to join the Navy.

His parents, who lived nearby, were from a business background.

I talked to the boy, and his parents, for some time.

Then, from what I had learnt the hard way from my own experience, I advised the boy not to join the navy.

His parents were angry: “Why are you saying so? Our son is so good – look at his personality, his physical fitness, his intelligence, his smartness. Don’t you feel our son has the aptitude to be selected for the navy?”

“Of course he has the aptitude,” I commented, “but does he have the right attitude?”

The boy and his parents looked at me confused and it looked like they were getting upset.

Before the parents could react, I said, “Well, I feel that your son does not have the appropriate attitude for the navy.”

I saw that the furious parents, who thought that I was demeaning their son, were in no mood to listen to any further explanations, so I kept quiet. Their ego was hurt and I could see that now the boy was even more determined than ever to join the navy and prove me wrong as if it were a prestige issue.

The boy cleared the UPSC Exam, sailed through the SSB (of course, they assess “aptitude” but I wonder if they evaluate “attitude”) and in due course the smart young boy joined the academy as a cadet for basic training.

Ten years later, the same boy, looking smart in his spotless white uniform of a Naval Lieutenant, was sitting in my office in Mumbai.

He had come to ask me a favour.

He desperately wanted to get out of the navy and was wondering if I could help him out.

“But why do you want to quit the navy?” I asked with surprise, “you are just beginning your career in the navy and you have such a bright future ahead.”

“I just don’t like it over here – I just can’t tolerate my life being controlled all the time – the bloody rules, regulations, and all the bullshit – I can’t stand it anymore.”

“So you don’t like the regimentation, the naval way of life?” I asked.

“Yes. I remember what you said ten years ago when we had come over to your place in Pune. You said that I didn’t have the right attitude for the navy. You were right. I should have listened to you.”

Of course, then he went on to list many reasons why he wanted to quit – family pressures (his father was not keeping well and wanted him to look after their family business), a matrimonial alliance (the girl did not want to marry a defence officer) and so many other reasons. But the crux was the attitudinal mismatch problem.

I frankly told him that it would be very difficult for him to leave the navy since he was a permanent commission cadet entry officer.

I advised him that now that he had joined the navy, it was best for him to continue serving in the navy as he had a bright career ahead.

But I saw that the young Lieutenant sitting in front of me was in no mood to listen to my platitudinous advice.

That boy had not listened to my advice when I told him not to join the navy.

Now, again, the boy did not listen to me when I told him to continue serving in the navy.

The young Lieutenant was adamant on quitting the navy. He kept putting up his resignation again and again giving different pretexts and made his own life miserable and everyone else’s too.

Later, I learnt that his perseverance had paid off and he had finally managed to get out of the navy after a struggle of nearly three years, relentlessly pushing his papers, pulling strings, using connections, begging and pleading his case – three years of his productive life wasted, to him and to the navy – and finally he left the navy with a feeling of bitterness.

During my naval career I have seen so many officers who realised that they were misfits in the navy and wasted many frustrated years of their lives in misery trying to get out of the navy.

That is why, before you join the navy, make sure you have the right attitude suitable for a career in the navy.

Attitude matters more than aptitude.

Your attitude is your way of thinking (based on your values and beliefs) which influences your behaviour and determines the manner in which you approach life. Attitude determines your mind-set.

On the other hand, your aptitude is your ability to do something.

Aptitude comprises talent, skills, qualifications, proficiency, competence, capability and capacity to do your job well.

Your attitude or mind-set is value-based and hence is universal in nature.

In contrast, aptitude is job specific.

For example, you may have a rigid attitude towards honesty or you may have a flexible attitude towards honesty (situational ethics).

Your ethical attitude will depend on your moral and ethical values.

And you will exercise this attitude in all jobs you do and in all aspects of your life.

You may have a dogmatic attitude towards religion or, in contrast, you may have a tolerant attitude towards diverse religious views and practices.

You may have a democratic mind-set or an authoritarian leadership attitude.

Whatever your attitude, you will exercise it wherever you are and in whichever job you do, because you cannot compromise your attitude since attitude is your nature.

On the other hand, by learning and training, you can develop the appropriate aptitude for a specific job or career.

Induction Training as a Cadet will enable you to develop the appropriate aptitude for the navy.

In contrast, no amount of training can change your inherent attitude and if there is mismatch then you will be a misfit in the navy, which is not good for you and neither is it good for the service.

You may ask me: “What is the appropriate attitude for a career as an officer in the navy?”

I am going to try and answer that question in detail.

We will discuss the salient attributes (or distinctive characteristics) of a career in the navy.

This will give you a clue as to whether you have the right attitude in congruence with these unique attributes which will enable you to have a harmonious naval career.


SALIENT ATTRIBUTES OF A NAVY CAREER

As I had said earlier: “The Navy is not a job. The Navy is a way of life”

(I feel the same holds true for the Army and Air Force as well).

It is this distinctive “way of life” that makes a career in the armed forces different from a career in the civilian organisations, industry or the business world.

In a nutshell, in my opinion, there are seven unique characteristics that govern your career in the navy:


1. HOLISTIC ORIENTATION

2. LIFETIME EMPLOYMENT

3. SLOW CAREER PROGRESS, MODEST CAREER PROSPECTS AND MODERATE COMPENSATION PACKAGE

4. NON-SPECIALISED CAREER PATH DUE TO “JACK OF ALL TRADES” CAREER PLANNING APPROACH AND “BROAD-SPECTRUM” HUMAN RESOURCE (HR) MANAGEMENT POLICY

5. STRUCTURED REGIMENTATION AND EMPHASIS ON CONFORMANCE – RIGID RULE BASED ORTHODOX TRADITION GOVERNED CONFORMIST ORGANISATIONAL CULTURE

6. PERIPATETIC NOMADIC EXISTENCE – VARIABLE AND CHANGEABLE TYPE OF WORK AND UNSTABLE FAMILY LIFE

7. EARLY RETIREMENT AGE RESULTING IN UNDER-EXPLOITATION OF POTENTIAL AND WASTAGE OF PRODUCTIVE CAPACITY


If you planning to join the navy you must ask yourself whether you have the right attitude to match all these attributes?

To begin with, let us start with the first attribute: HOLISTIC ORIENTATION


HOLISTIC ORIENTATION

Let me repeat this cliché ad nauseam to drive this truism right into your head:

The Navy is not a job.

The Navy is a way of life.

(The same holds true for the Army and Air Force as well)

In most civilian jobs, the connection between the employer and the employee  involves mainly those activities connected with the completion of a specific job.

This is true of the industry, especially the IT industry, where organizations practice an HR Policy of “partial inclusion”.

The Navy has a Holistic Orientation and practice an HR Attitude of “Total Inclusion”.

In the Navy, all the three aspects of a person’s life (“Work Life”, “Social Life” and “Personal Life”) are integrated into a single whole.  

Most civilian organisations and industries officially follow the precept: “Personal feelings have no place at work”.

Relationships between employees are limited to work life alone.

Yes, in some cases, there may be a bit of “socializing” but an employee’s personal life is considered his private matter and it is not considered legitimate and appropriate to formally meddle in personal affairs or interfere with the personal life of an employee.

In the Navy, relationships are not restricted to work life alone.

As I had said earlier, the Navy has a Holistic Attitude of “Total Inclusion”. 

This means that you are in the Navy 24/7 round the year on every day of your service life. Once you are a naval officer, you have no other identity.

In the Navy, all the three aspects of a person’s life (“Work Life”, “Social Life” and “Personal Life”) are integrated into a single whole. 

In contrast to a job in the “civvy street” where “personal feelings have no place at work”; in the Navy: “Personal feelings have a vital and significant place at work”.

This holistic relationship fosters a sense of intimacy between individuals, nurtures team-spirit and develops lifelong bonds of trust and understanding. This unique intimate relationship is imperative for warfighting.

The concept of “Total Inclusion” cultivates a unique intimate relationship which covers the entire gamut of work related and non-work related issues.

Not only you, but even your wife, children and family will be subject to the “total inclusion” culture prevalent in the defence services.

For example, your wife’s status will depend on your Rank and Position.

This is because, in the Navy a wife “carries” her husband’s rank and sometimes her very identity is determined by her husband’s position in the Hierarchy – yes, it is the husband’s rank that determines the status of the wife in the closed navy society.

In the navy, the dictum “RANK HAS ITS PRIVILEGES” (RHIP) extends to your family life as well.

Will this extension of “pecking order” to your family life be acceptable to you?

Will you like some senior officer’s wife “lording” over your wife despite the fact that your wife is more accomplished?

And, God Forbid, if you miss your promotion, are you prepared to suffer the RHIP ignominy in all three aspects of your life – work, social and personal life.

On the positive side, “total inclusion” will ensure that you and your family will be well looked after by the naval fraternity.

Hence, if you wish to join the defence services you must be prepared this “holistic” way of life which entails the intermixing of your work life, your social life and your personal and family life.

If you are a “private person” who believes that “office” and “home” must be kept separate and if you feel that your boss, workplace colleagues and organisation must keep out of your personal life, then a career in the navy is definitely not your cup of tea, because you do not have the compatible “attitude”.

I think I have written more than enough for one post. So I will continue this topic in Part 2 right here in my blog.

Meanwhile, in case you are thinking of joining the navy, do reflect on whether you have the right attitude to match the seven attributes listed above which are characteristic of the navy.

End of Part 1 …


To be Continued in Part 2 …

VIKRAM KARVE
Copyright © Vikram Karve 2013
Vikram Karve has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 to be identified as the author of this work. 
© vikram karve., all rights reserved. 

NB:
All stories in this blog are a work of fiction. The characters do not exist and are purely imaginary. Any resemblance to persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.
No part of this Blog may be reproduced or utilized in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical including photocopying or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the Blog Author Vikram Karve who holds the copyright.
Copyright © Vikram Karve 2013. All Rights Reserved

About Vikram Karve

A creative person with a zest for life, Vikram Karve is a retired Naval Officer turned full time writer and blogger. Educated at IIT Delhi, IIT (BHU) Varanasi, The Lawrence School Lovedale and Bishops School Pune, Vikram has published two books: COCKTAIL a collection of fiction short stories about relationships (2011) and APPETITE FOR A STROLL a book of Foodie Adventures (2008) and is currently working on his novel and a book of vignettes and an anthology of short fiction. An avid blogger, he has written a number of fiction short stories and creative non-fiction articles on a variety of topics including food, travel, philosophy, academics, technology, management, health, pet parenting, teaching stories and self help in magazines and published a large number of professional  and academic research papers in journals and edited in-house journals and magazines for many years, before the advent of blogging. Vikram has taught at a University as a Professor for 15 years and now teaches as a visiting faculty and devotes most of his time to creative writing and blogging. Vikram Karve lives in Pune India with his family and muse - his pet dog Sherry with whom he takes long walks thinking creative thoughts.

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