Negative sides to an officer career

Discussion in 'Officers' started by notaspartan, Aug 19, 2010.

Welcome to the Army Rumour Service, ARRSE

The UK's largest and busiest UNofficial military website.

The heart of the site is the forum area, including:

  1. Following a chat with my boss I've been left with a question I have no experience to answer; that is what are the negative sides to being an officer over an NCO? I've read lots of "yes its fantastic go and do it once you have life experience" etc. but I've seen no balance to the argument, other than the standard "officer/NCO comparison" threads which do not quite fit the bill.

    I can think of "easy" answers from observation: increased hours, constant job moves or the possibility of being left behind at captain or major by potential peers? There is also the risk of being dropped at year 8 and not getting the full pension after all.

    Does anyone else have a view on the negatives of commissioning, or ultimately, being an officer?
  2. mysteron

    mysteron LE Book Reviewer

    So let's shatter a few preconceived ideas:

    1. It does not matter what job you do, Army or Civvy St - you run the risk of being left behind by your peers. Life's a bitch isn't it. So that is irrelevant. Either you are effective at your job or you are not.

    2. Increased hours. It is not just HM Armed Forces that have jobs that mean you don't work 9 to 5 and 37.5 hours a week. Many jobs also work weekends as well. So that is irrelevant.

    3. Constant Job Moves: Market research has shown that most people aged between 18 - 28 will move jobs 10 times (every 2 years, source: Linky).

    4. Not having your contract renewed. Again HM Armed Forces does not have the monopoly on that either.

    So what are the downsides?

    A. In the distilled microcosm of society that your unit is, you are on public display 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. You represent the organisation to the people you may be privileged to lead, those that are in unit and those outside of the unit. That way - you simply erode your credibility, every time you screw up and it takes much longer to get it back. There are no secrets, they all come out sooner or later.

    B. You have to work harder than every one of the soldiers that you lead, every day, every night.

    C. You will give up certain aspects of your civil liberties to serve in HM Armed Forces (Privacy rights, freedom of speech - you can't talk to anyone about things that you do or express opinions to external agencies without authorisation, etc).

    D. You will be expected to attend functions and participate in activities that you don't want to do - at your cost.

    There are a few - but those downsides are minuscule to the rewards that I experienced.
  3. There is a downside to every choice, and the direct answer as to which is better for an individual will depend on what they want and in what branch they join.

    That said, it would surely be better if you thought less about yourself and a little more about the service: one should serve where one's abilities ar most useful. A person with the ability to take a commission should do so, simply because to do otherwise is a waste of that ability. If you don't (and AOSB will decide), then by all means serve in the ranks.
  4. If you are in the Cav I would say having to wear brown shoes, yellow cords and a pink shirt! Who advises officers on their dress sense?
  5. Other officers and their mothers.
  6. one individual I can think of had disadvantages as an officer, namely doing officers week, so he resigned his commission, left the army and then came started allover again in order to be a trooper. Doing very well by all accounts
  7. For me the biggest downside is that the best jobs in the Army as an officer are expended in your first 4 years.

    You will go onto have great jobs as a more senior Officer but for the daily grind of working with and leading the lads, you will struggle to top Tp/Pl Comds' jobs.

    I must admit I don't miss writing 50 CRs a year though :).
  8. Nail, head, SMASH.
  9. You know what? I think the downsides you've mentioned are to most officers and officer candidates, positives rather than negatives. Increased hours are key to fully taking on the lifestyle aspect of the army: rather than it just being a job, it's a career path and a lifestyle. Having to move is really a chance to travel and feel challenged in different places all over Britain and the World. Being left behind is really more an issue of the competitive nature of promotion and, be honest, would you complain about being a Major for the rest of your career? I wouldn't.

    Look at your current job - I have no idea what it is, btw - but does it afford you the opportunities, the training, the lifestyle or the wage that the Army does? Does it afford you the chances that you will be given in the Army? Isn't it better to know you've taken a chance at a career where you are surrounded by the most motivated people in British society then be dissuaded by one man who will probably never be in aposition to offer all the positives listed above?

    Just a thought
  10. The negatives you list pretty much apply to any serious career, not just the army.
  11. I will add my 2 cents at the risk of a slagging.

    In my experience, being an officer should be regarded more of a "calling" (I know this connotes images of religion that will cause some ARRSERs to go into fits of apoplexy but I think it is still apt) than a "job." To some extent, of course this is true for anyone serving in a volunteer military force, regardless of rank or specialty but it is even more true for officers. The does NOT mean, however, they should ever let this go to their heads and cause them to think they are somehow "better" than those who must answer to them--indeed it should provoke the opposite attitude-selflessness and always having their welfare come before their own.

    That is why there is an aspect of your questions that concerns me, although you may well not have intended it as such. As I tell those Uni students who aspire to be Marine officers when I interview them in connection with their applications, if you feel such questions are that important, this could be a signal that you are not one so called and should consider other careers. Not only do such questions suggest a degree of self-absorption but also a lack of confidence if one is concerned about being passed over before even starting. Officer who lack self-confidence (and I do not mean self centeredness) are too often prone to excesses in their behavior in terms of worrying more of their own well-being than others or over-compensating by playing a role as a martinet etc.

    The most successful officers I have known have literally oozed from every pore an attitude that demonstrates a profound sense of gratitude at even having the chance to serve their nation and lead the fine men and women of their service. This in turn engenders a strange mix of humility and pride that is infectious to their colleagues and subordinates and that forms the basis of that profound sense of respect and loyalty they then receive. (Respect, unlike obedience, must be earned every day and cannot be demanded).

    I do not mean to minimiz(s)e the practical aspects of being an officer that one needs to consider such as some of those raised in your questions, but if one is "called" to be an officer, those more "administrative and logistical" concerns take on a whole new perspective.
  12. seaweed

    seaweed LE Book Reviewer

    JJH, somewhere approaching half a century ago a man I knew went off to interview leaders about leadership. At one point he interviewed the Commanding General of your esteemed Corps. Asked what leadership meant, the general came up with "I guess you look after them, and then they look after you."
  13. To my mind, the biggest upside would be the chance to with soldiers. They're simultaneously horrible and magnificent people: vile, lazy, dishonest and devious - and hard-working, hilarious and utterly dependable when needed. I'm always amazed to meet folk with commissions who don't really enjoy being around soldiers. I guess then, for some, a disadvantage is having to be around soldiers quite a bit, at least early on.
  14. Anyone who doesnt get on with the soldiers they are supposed to lead, shouldn't be in the job.

    The lad's will accept almost anyone, as long as you're a semi decent bloke/girl you will do grand. I would be deeply suspect of anyone who didn't, strangely or otherwise, enjoy spending time with their soldiers.
  15. Thankyou for the replies so far, I really like alot of the points and am happy to be told I'm wrong about the observed negatives. I think that it may be worth me owning up to already being in the army, I currently work in a Bde HQ in a non-commissioned capacity, so my "negatives" do not come from a "9-5" outlook which should hopefully alleviate a few of the concerns highlighted by posters above.

    JJH I really appreciate your comments and along with strainofcommands' point about topping out at major, agree that is no bad thing at all (and also distinctly further than I would be in my current career path). While I appreciate where your concerns are regarding my questions, personally for me I raised these points both out of (as I admitted) not knowing better yet (purpose of the thread) and from an understanding I do not just have myself to think about - I am married with a young family and for me their needs from me as the "breadwinner" feature in any decisions I make regarding career progression. I think that should explain better my reason for asking and go some way to subdue any impression of personal ambition being the most important consideration!

    G_i_a_o and choff, you both sound alot like an old SO2 I once worked for, are either of you gunners?! He had the very same outlook on us (soldiers). I personally do not think working with soldiers would be a negative, obviously being one myself!

    Not wanting to turn this into a "notaspartan's career" thread - are there any more generic answers/personal experiences of negatives?