Page 42 - Foreign Service Journal - October, 2012b

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42
OCTOBER 2012
|
THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL
BRIDGING THE
FOREIGN SERVICE
GENERATIONAL GULF
S
omething divides too many members of the Foreign
Service. It can thwart teamwork and sap job fulfll-
ment. It has led to too many talented ofcers resign-
ing and gives others gray hairs.
What is it? Te generational gulf between the old-
est and the youngest.
Knowing how to overcome these age fault lines would lead to
much happier ofces, from Santiago to Sapporo. So what causes
this gulf? And why is bridging it more difcult than in previous
decades?
Culture Clash
Let’s start with the startling statistic that more than half of
today’s Foreign Service joined after 9/11. While many of the new
entrants arrived with one or more careers behind them, a good
proportion are in their 20s and new to government.
At the same time, most of the good folks at the top of the
organization came into government service in the 1970s, 1980s
or 1990s. Regrettably, too many of these veterans treat their
younger colleagues just as they were treated by their own gruf
bosses, despite eforts by department leadership to break the
pattern. Teir attitude is, “Tat’s the way we’ve always done it
around here.”
Whether this unpleasant approach did get them promoted, or
actually slowed down their careers, many of these managers see
it as how they got to where they are today. And despite eforts
by the department to change such behavior, and the impact of
Diferences in age and
experience do not have
to divide FS members.
Instead, veterans and
newer entrants can learn
to appreciate each other’s
perspectives and insights.
FOCUS
THE NEW FS GENERATION
BY BRANDON POSS I N AND LARRY BUT L ER