The Foreign Service Journal, March 2007

than sway a board. One reviewing officer, an ambassador, wrote: “I wish I had more space to write about this truly remarkable human being.” He then left a quarter of the page blank. Unmerited praise demeans both the giver and the recipient. Yet there should probably be more compli- ments in EERs, not fewer — of the genuine variety, that is. Because the Foreign Service as an institution is not used to commendation, especially from outsiders, too much praise might have an emetic effect. But it is still better to err on the side of generosity. Behaviorists say that the average person needs some sort of affirmation every 15 minutes. Yet supervisors erroneously fear that too much praise will soften the spine and cause subor- dinates to lean back on their oars. The opposite is more likely true, for a great performance deserves full-bore praise. Consider the following exam- ples: Of Machiavelli (on his tomb in Florence): “No praise is equal to that of his own name.” Of George Washington: “If you require a monument, look around.” And my absolute favorite: Of Shakespeare (by Macaulay): “He had no equal and no second. Of faults he had none, unless it be the slight tedium evoked by his reiterated splendor.” John Eddy, a Foreign Service officer from 1966 to 1994, served in Caracas, San Salvador, Bogota, Nairobi, Bridgetown, Dhahran and Bombay. His Washington, D.C., assignments included a tour as senior special assis- tant to the director general. Since retiring from the Service, he has con- tinued to conduct occasional inspec- tions overseas and in the department as a senior inspector. 20 F O R E I G N S E R V I C E J O U R N A L / M A R C H 2 0 0 7 F S K N O W - H O W One of the most damaging pieces of evidence in the eyes of a selection board is the reappearance of the same criticism, however minor, year after year.