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Company Command: The Bottom Line - Army Leadership Guide

How to prevent a Soldier from going around the Chain of Command

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The response is provided based on the information you shared. It is not legal advice nor should this information be used to make a decision. It is highly recommended you speak with your chain of command, IG, and/or JAG before making any decisions.

Let’s deal with the most important issue first:

Disrespect:  There is no excuse for disrespect and I would consider shutting this down immediately through verbal and formal counseling and potentially corrective training.  If this does not resolve the issue you can recommend privileges be revoked and as a final step you can recommend action under UCMJ.  If the disrespect is significant it may be necessary to go straight to UCMJ (use this as a last resort). When recommending an Article 15 make sure you fully understand the unintended consequences of your decision.

Keep in mind disagreement does not equal disrespect! Going Around the Chain of Command

There are several questions that need to be addressed to get to the root cause of this issue:

  1. What is the Sergeant reason for behaving this way?
  2. Is there a lack of trust between the Sergeant and his subordinate leadership?
  3. Why is senior leadership tolerating this behavior?
  4. Is senior leadership encouraging the Sergeant by allowing this behavior?
    1. If so, why

Generally, the key is to sit the Sergeant down in a professional setting and in a professional and unemotional manner try to determine the root cause of the issue.  If there is a lack of trust determine what caused the lack of trust and a path forward to overcome it.

When the Sergeant goes to senior leadership is senior leadership asking questions:

  1. Have you spoken with your: Squad Leader, Platoon Sergeant, etc?
  2. If you have not spoken to your leadership why won’t you give them a chance to solve the problem?
  3. Why don’t you go back to your leadership an attempt to solve the problem and come back and see me in 48 hours if the issue is not properly addressed:
    1. Before sending the Soldier away it is critically important to determine if there might be a significant issue like is the Soldier a threat to themselves or others, does the Soldier appear to be incredibly emotional….do they just need to vent?
    1. Keep in mind the just because the Soldier receives an answer from subordinate level leadership that they do not like does not mean the issue was not properly addressed.  Sometimes the correct answer is “No” but explain why.
    1. Senior leadership should follow up to make sure the issue was properly addressed

If after a formal and professional counseling the Soldier continues to go around subordinate leadership discussion with senior members of the chain of command is needed to see if they will redirect the Sergeant back to you for resolution. 

The absolutely key is to find out why the Sergeant feels this behavior is necessary, acceptable, and professional? Consider asking the Sergeant how would they feel if one of their Soldiers consistently went around and how would they handle it?

Finally, as a leader you need to examine yourself.  Are you doing something to cause the Sergeant to behave this way? Sometimes asking your leader for insight can help in the self-examination process. You are simply looking to see if you can do something better and become a better leader.

Bottomline the leadership team from the Squad leader, Platoon Sergeant, and 1SG need to address this in a professional and unified manner.  This does not mean crush the Sergeant.  It means address the root cause and attempt to find a reasonable solution. 

Senior leadership should listen to the Sergeant’s concerns and if appropriate refer the matter back to subordinate leadership and give them a chance to fix it.  As senior leaders redirect the Soldier to subordinate leadership eventually the Sergeant will get the word.

You might also consider corrective training like writing an essay on:

  1. Chain of Command and the NCO support channel.
  2. When is it appropriate to go around the chain of command and NCO support channel?
  3. How would they resolve an issue when a Soldier consistently goes around the Chain of Command and NCO Support Channel?  Basically, you are asking them to share their wisdom and experience and hopefully they will take a look at their behavior and do a self-examination. 
  4. You could have the Soldier give you a 5-10-minute class on why it is important to use the Chain of Command and NCO Support Channel?

By doing this you may find out what is driving the Soldier’s behavior.

Before conducting corrective training, you might want to watch the following videos:

How to implement corrective training: How to use physical exercise in conjunction with corrective training:

Finally, treat the Soldier with dignity and respect.  Use this as an opportunity to professional grow the Sergeant.

Did you find this information useful? Respectfully,

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Mark is a Retired Command Sergeant Major with 26 years of military leadership experience. He held 3 military occupational specialties (Field Artillery, Nuclear Weapons Tech, and Ammunition Ordnance). Mark is one of the leading military authors in the fields of leadership, counseling, and training.

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