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THE QUESTION

I got written up by the military and I am wondering whether I deserved it or not.

A few weeks ago, I called a co-worker to tell chain of command for the infantry reserve (I go there once a week from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. to train) that I wasn't feeling well that morning. Later on, I felt a better, but not 100 per cent.

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One of my military friends wanted to go out for a drink. So I went downtown at about 10:30 p.m. for a single beer, and I was the designated driver. The next week, I found out that someone had seen me out that night and told one of the officers that I had been drinking all night and was not ill.

My officer wrote me up for it and I signed a paper to that effect. What should I do? Should I fight the piece of paper I signed?

THE FIRST ANSWER

Kyle Couch

President, Spectrum Organizational Development, Toronto

Being in the military means that you are part of a team. As such you are held to a high standard by the members of your militia. The consequences of not having these high standards and expectations can mean the difference between life and death on a battlefield. Therefore, you must hold yourself accountable for your decisions.

Considering you are a reservist, you are subject to the Canadian Armed Forces' code of service discipline (CSD), however only at certain times. Based on your situation, you are not technically in violation of the CSD. Therefore, your commanding officer may not have been correct in writing you up, nor should you have signed it. Perhaps you signed it out of guilt for letting your team down.

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With this all said, you do have an obligation to your job. Going out on the same day you missed work was not the respectful choice. You would have served yourself, and your team, better to take a raincheck on the social event and focused on your health.

The key now is to train hard and rebuild your team's trust in you. In time, you can prove your dedication to your officer, and hopefully have the writeup reversed. While this is certainly not a life-and-death moment, you must show your team that they can count on you if the stakes ever do get that high.

THE SECOND ANSWER

Sheila Copps

Former deputy prime minister

Call me old-fashioned, but I am on your officer's side. If you phone in sick, and then go out to a bar, don't be surprised if that mistake lands you in hot water.

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Your reserve work is limited, but that means your dependability is even more important. If you are only working three hours a week, you should be able to show up when you are not feeling 100 per cent. The bottom line is that if you are too sick to go to work, you are too sick to be spreading your germs in a bar.

The fact that you had a single beer and were the designated driver is not relevant. When you got caught, you 'fessed up and signed a document admitting to your mistake. Given that you had no intention of going out that night, it would be worth your while to sit down with your officer and explain how and why you ended up recovering enough to go out on the town but not enough to come to work. It won't change that you were written up but it could help you repair the damage you have done with your boss.

Especially in the infantry, dependability is key. Your life could depend on it. Cut the excuses and man/or woman up. You made a mistake but you can repair it and move on, with your head held high and your future work record intact.

Are you facing a burning issue at work? Need help navigating that mine field? Let our Nine to Five experts help solve your dilemma. E-mail your questions to ninetofive@globeandmail.com.

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