Page 44 - Foreign Service Journal - October, 2012b

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Strengthening mentoring
programs can go far to
bridge the generational gap.
learn, while newcomers want to learn, be heard, participate
and contribute from their frst day. Rah-rah recruiting pitches
and encouraging presentations from senior State Department
ofcials to A-100 and new specialist orientation classes all too
often inadvertently mislead our new colleagues as to the realities
of the Foreign Service.
Diverging expectations can lead to confict in the ofce,
as well. A new consular ofcer likely wants to hear she did an
exceptional job for interviewing 120 visa applicants in one
morning, whereas a veteran consul might dismiss this as just an
average day, nothing special. A new engineering security spe-
cialist wants to stay late to devise a new technical solution, but
his veteran supervisor might say, “If it’s not broke, don’t fx it. No
one will thank you. Go home!”
Te fip side is the veteran political ofcer who stays late to
polish a subordinate’s reporting message, while the “newbie”
colleague is anxious to enjoy the local social scene to make con-
nections. Tat same entry-level political ofcer not only wants
to know what happened at country team, but thinks she should
attend regularly. Her boss thinks she’s out of line, and fails to
share what went on at the meeting.
To bridge this generational gulf, here are some ideas that have
worked for both of us.
What Younger Employees Want
More than anything else, younger employees
crave feedback from above. Tey want their work recognized and
praised, for they have recently left an educational system geared
to boosting their own self-esteem and shielded from negative
comment. Yet they truly want their work criticized, too, as their
parents and teachers have done—but constructively. It’s a recipe
for frustration when supervisors treat subordinates’ work as
merely routine and unworthy of commentary.
One technique for bridging this gap is “small victories,” which
come in two varieties. Managers can periodically give verbal or
written kudos, invite subordinates to lunch, and ofer ego-sus-