An Investigation Around Veteran Status and Its Influence on Aggression, Ostracism, Stress, and Counterproductive Work Behaviors; Challenging Veteran Stereotypes

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Chapter 1. 


While recent veteran unemployment is currently at a level slightly lower than non-veteran unemployment (Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2022), unemployment for veterans has historically run at a higher rate than civilian unemployment, and in 2011 hit a high of 29% for veterans 18-24 years of age (Loughran, 2014). One of the greatest obstacles for veterans leaving military service is finding a career-level civilian job (Minnis, 2018). Considering there are approximately 18 million veterans in the United States (Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2022) and up to a quarter of a million veterans have been returning to civilian life every year for nearly two decades (Boatwright & Roberts, 2019; Zogas, 2017), employment of veterans is a significant issue. It is important not only for veterans themselves, but also for employers and the broader economy. Veterans represent an underutilized talent pool that can make significant contributions to organizations and have strong growth potential, with a nearly 40% higher probability of promotion than non-veterans (Boatwright & Roberts, 2019). Aside from the practical implications, there is also the moral issue of ensuring that the individuals who have sacrificed and dedicated themselves in service to their country can create a worthwhile and sustainable life post-service. Securing fulfilling employment is paramount in helping veterans reach that goal (Gonzalez & Simpson, 2021).

Current literature strongly indicates the likelihood of negative employer bias toward veterans based on false assumptions and stereotypes, and studies have shown the presence of this employer bias in veteran hiring. Stone et al. (2018), sought to determine if stereotypes had any effect on veteran employment; specifically, assessing hiring managers’ perceptions of applicants who were military veterans and how those perceptions affected their hiring decisions. Upon analysis of the study’s results, the researchers determined there was evidence of both positive and negative veteran stereotypes, and that those stereotypes did affect managers’ hiring decisions. Keeling, et al. (2018) examined what factors impact a veteran’s success in obtaining and maintaining civilian employment, including veteran discrimination. Their results were consistent with other research as veterans in the study identified stigma and discrimination by hiring managers as a barrier to employment (Gonzalez & Simpson, 2021; Shepherd et al., 2021;

Stone & Stone, 2015; Stone et al., 2018).

Research has also shown the stereotyping of veterans as having post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and mental instability, and that these stereotypes lead to a fear military veterans are more likely to be unstable and engage in aggressive and/or violent behavior, with this fear potentially having a negative influence on veteran employment (Gonzalez & Simpson, 2021; Mobbs & Bonanno, 2018; Stone & Stone, 2015). Such stereotypes have been ubiquitous, with more than 80% of Americans believing mental health issues are more prevalent among post-9/11 veterans than similar non-veterans (Lieberman & Stewart, 2014).

Veterans believe a widely held stereotype in civilian organizations is the assumption that former service members are inherently dangerous simply because of their military experience, creating a mistrust between veterans and potential employers and thereby negatively impacting veterans’ transition to civilian employment (Yanchus et al., 2018). Research has also shown that veterans are frequently stereotyped as easily agitated and aggressive to the point of violence, causing some employers to consider hiring veterans as too risky, based on a fear of potential violence in their workplace (Stone & Stone, 2015).

The U.S. government has identified veteran stereotypes as a legitimate concern. In a white paper by the Office of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (2014), several stereotypes were discussed in an effort to engage an informed national dialogue between veterans and civilians. The first stereotype presented was that “veterans suffer disproportionately from posttraumatic stress,” while the reality is the probability of post-traumatic stress among veterans is not higher than non-veterans when, according to the National Institute of Mental Health, posttraumatic stress can affect anyone who has seen or experienced a dangerous or traumatic event (Employment Situation of Veterans Summary, 2021). In addition, although the belief that most veterans are prone to violence because of post-traumatic stress is a common stereotype, there is no empirical evidence that links the condition with a predisposition for violent behavior

(Lafferty, et al., 2008).

There is limited empirical research on veteran stereotypes and stigmas, and it has been suggested that this should be a priority in veteran related research in an effort to challenge these misconceptions (Stone & Stone, 2015). This present research examines whether there is a basis for these stereotypes, e.g., do veterans demonstrate a higher tendency toward aggressive behaviors than non-veterans. This study also examines emotional stability and ostracism, and whether these issues have any mediating effect between veteran status and other outcomes.

Exploiting the full potential of veterans’ intellectual capital requires improved awareness of the military experience by U.S. employers and their human resources departments so that they may effectively manage the distinct needs and cultural differences of veterans in the civilian workplace (Keeling et al., 2018). The results of this study will contribute to the existing literature to raise awareness and offer counterarguments to veteran myths and stereotypes within American business.


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