Don't Eat My Chips! Earning Your Rank and Eating It Too.

When it comes to workplace dynamics, there are many contributing factors. There's seniority, years with a company, level of skills, and personalities. All of this, and more, combine to create a unique working environment.

Bethaney Wallace, Army Spouse

Bethaney Wallace, Army Spouse

Add in the military and things get even more complicated with laws, expectations, and the enforcement of said expectations. What's more, there's a set of steps that must be followed for promotion. While, in the civilian world, someone who is especially talented can go straight to the top, the same does not hold true for the military. Members must put in their time and specific requirements in order to be promoted.

In the very same way that skill or talent cannot always be properly rewarded, those who under-perform are not necessarily reprimanded.

It's a topic I've been thinking about for months, after my husband came home, day after day, hungry from skipping lunch. Previously, our routine went like this: he told me what he wanted for lunch for the next two weeks, and I added it to the grocery list so he could take it to work. Usually it was something like peanut butter sandwiches, apple juice, and a variety pack of chips. (Yes he eats like a 6-year-old.) It was a routine that worked.

But then his lunch supplies started to disappear. Sandwich bread dwindled day-by-day, and entire snack-size chip bags were snagged by hungry hands. He saw it happening, of course. He saw his sergeant major eat his chili-flavored Fritos; he watched his major sip on his apple juice, and so on.

But how does a lower-ranking soldier say, "Umm excuse me, that's my lunch."

(To be fair, I don't think they did it maliciously. They just saw something they wanted and helped themselves, because that's what happens when you're the boss.)

Now we pack his lunch by the day and it sits under his desk. To my knowledge, no one has been bold enough to rummage through the somewhat hidden bag.

So what's the big deal? Sharing is caring, right? Does it get him brownie points to spread the goodies? Perhaps if they'd known whose food it was he'd gotten credit for his contribution to their bellies, but nothing was labeled. Did they each that much dollar value in food? Of course not.

The "big deal" is that it messed up our plan. The plan for him to be fed and for me to not have to go back to the store. Or for either of us to not have to pack a daily lunch. Instead of planning for one person to eat for two weeks, we would have planned for moochy snackers with plenty to go around. 

The point is, earning rank in the military doesn't just get you a higher paycheck, it gives you the right to be – well, impolite – without backlash. In the civilian world, my husband might have said something. A boss might have implemented an eat-what-you-bring rule. But not in the military. In the military, when someone outranks you, you keep your mouth shut and you keep working. Even when it means losing your lunch.