The Foreign Service Journal - May 2014 - page 52

The millennial generation is
changing the Foreign Service
and how it works, lives and
views the world.
New hires have tradition-
ally adapted their behavior
to conform to the system.
Today, given the numbers of
new hires (more than 50 per-
cent of the Service—granted,
not all of them millennials),
it’s more two-way: the estab-
lishment also has to adapt to
this new generation.
The millennials are chal-
lenging, sometimes subtly
and other times more overtly,
the internal order and its pre-
vailing work-life norms. This
generation’s more global,
interdisciplinary and digitally
connected perspective is also
opening up new diplomatic
At the same time, this
generation shares the same
passion for and dedication to
the Foreign Service as others.
It values the Service’s inter-
generational contact and
opportunities to learn from
those who have gone before.
Together, the millennials,
generation X and baby boom-
ers are shaping—perhaps in
new ways and with different
approaches—the premier
diplomatic workforce of the
21st century.
The millennial genera-
tion’s general characteris-
MAY 2014
Views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the AFSA State VP.
or (202) 647-8160
Millennial Diplomacy*
tics—confidence, optimism
about the future and open-
ness to change—carry over
into the workplace. There is
an expectation of full-digital
integration at work, includ-
ing tools that provide for
extreme transparency inside
and outside the department,
here and abroad.
The generation is less
accepting of what it views
as onerous security require-
ments, in terms of both tech-
nology and physical facilities.
These digital natives are
frustrated by the depart-
ment’s use of technology and
find it inadequate compared
to other agencies in the U.S.
government (e.g., the military
and intelligence), not to men-
tion private-sector firms.
Millennials also have dif-
ferent career expectations
than Gen X and the Baby
Boomers. They are less likely
to have “one employer for
life.” If the Foreign Service
wants to capture the best
and brightest, it needs to be
able to accommodate those
who are looking to join for a
limited number of years.
Millennials expect respon-
sibility, meaningful work and
advancement opportunities,
and are subtly influenced
by the success and fortunes
of their counterparts in the
private sector. They regard
Facebook founders Marc
Zuckerberg and Chris Hughes
as peers, even if their experi-
ence is one in three billion.
Finally, the generation
has different expectations
for the quality of work/life.
They are likely to subscribe
past generations, set limits
on the number of hours in
the workday.
Millennials are marrying
later (if at all), having fewer
children and espousing more
liberal views on many politi-
cal and social issues than
previous generations.
With Foreign Affairs
Manual regulations touching
on topics like “promiscuous
behavior” in an age where
the definition of promiscu-
may need to re-evaluate
its policies and disciplinary
World Outlook
The recent crisis in Crimea
reminds us of the importance
of perspective to diplomacy.
The millennial generation
was raised with a different
view of Russia than gen X or
the baby boomers. It came of
age knowing Russia as a post-
Soviet Union country the
West was trying to incorpo-
rate into a post-modern world
order—not as a historical
foe. Some were surprised by
a perceived negative bias in
media coverage of the Sochi
In a post-ideological world,
millennials appreciate digital
interconnectivity across
national borders between
people of different races
and religions. They are more
likely to form associations
and make Facebook “friends”
(and no, not the kind that
warrant Diplomatic Security
contact reporting) with peo-
ple from around the world.
What does all this mean
for U.S. diplomacy? Such
a differing generational
perspective may contribute
to a diversity of views about
the national interest at stake
in a given country or crisis, as
well as different emphases,
initiatives or engagement
It also suggests that the
Foreign Service would do well
to increase training on geog-
raphy, history and culture, to
ensure that we are operating
from a common platform of
Millennials matter. They
are already shaping the
culture of the State Depart-
ment, more rapidly than
department leadership ever
expected, and will continue
to do so as they rise through
the ranks.
Share your own millennial
story with me on twitter
Next month: Post-Benghazi
* This column draws on the
Pew Research Millennial Surveys. The millennial generation generally refers to those born after 1980 (i.e., the
first generation to come of age in the new millennium). Generation X covers people born from 1965 through 1980; and the baby boomers are those born
between 1946 and 1964.
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