The Foreign Service Journal, May 2014

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 solutions. 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. Work The millennial genera- tion’s general characteris- 52 MAY 2014 | THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL Views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the AFSA State VP. Contact: 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. Life Finally, the generation has different expectations for the quality of work/life. They are likely to subscribe to Wharton Professor Stew Friedman’s “Total Leader- ship” philosophy and, unlike 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- ity often varies widely (see 3 FAM 4139.14 on “Notoriously Disgraceful Behavior”), State may need to re-evaluate its policies and disciplinary regulations. 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 Olympics. 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 strategies. 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 understanding. 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 @matthewasada. n Next month: Post-Benghazi Security * This column draws on the 2010 and 2014 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. STATE VP VOICE | BY MATTHEW ASADA AFSA NEWS