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Talking deployment

When and how to broach the topic of an upcoming deployment with your employer

Katie Christy, professional development coach, Army spouse, and co-founder of Empower. Photo courtesy Empower

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Deployments are as varied as the families that face them. How long you've been at your current duty station, whether you've had time to find a community of support, the age of your children and how they are handling it, and how comfortable you feel at your current place of work can all affect the way you ride out those long months apart.

For military spouses, determining how or when to tell an employer or co-workers about an upcoming deployment can add to the stress.  Here is some advice from fellow spouses and career counselors about how to broach the subject in the workplace.

"Keep those around you in the loop about what is happening, because you're not yourself, at least for the first few weeks while you get readjusted," said Maggie Connors, a financial advisor at Edward Jones in DuPont and a Joint Base Lewis-McChord Army spouse who has faced a number of deployments.

Civilian co-workers often want to help or show support but may not know how to approach the subject.  Providing a bit of guidance can help break the ice, particularly with co-workers with whom you've become close.

Dana Manciagli, a career coach and columnist in Seattle, advises spouses to keep the news of a deployment to themselves, at least initially.  

"People often share too much information too early on," she said. "I would advise that you keep the information to yourself until you know how it will affect you and your work."

Once you decide to tell an employer, she said, "prepare for the conversation.  Tell your employer about the deployment, let them know you'll still be on top of your work, and ask them if they have any questions for you.  This should be a short conversation.  Employers care, but their main concern is how this is going to affect your work.  So answer it before it becomes a concern."  

Military spouses should focus on the positive things about a deployment rather than the negative, both for themselves and in their careers, said Katie Christy, a professional development coach, Army spouse and co-founder of Empower.

"You can choose to take more time for yourself and focus on your own work and hobbies during the deployment," she said. "As you're entering the deployment, set some short, medium and long-term goals for the time, and if you are employed, have a good chunk of those (be) professional goals.   Share those professional goals with your boss, and ask for (his or her) input and guidance.  It will help to show your dedication, your strengths, and that you are looking forward and committed to the organization."

Working through a deployment can provide consistency and normalcy in day-to-day life during a difficult time,  and developing a support network outside of work will help you weather the months apart.

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