Tag teaming Ambassadors
August 21, 2011 8:55 AM   Subscribe

A husband and wife ambassador team leave soon for Armenia. The UK has found a solution to the challenge of "trailing" foreign service spouses.

Foreign service life is incredibly hard on families. "Trailing" spouses have trouble finding work, kids have to adjust to moving regularly, and because foreign service officers' evaluations are so intense, finding a way for both spouse to advance (if they're both in the foreign service) is even tougher.

But it looks like the UK has found a solution, or at least they're trying one.

This next rotation for the Aves-Leach family is going to be a little different: "Jonathan Aves and his wife Katherine Leach will take turns to be the ambassador to Armenia, each doing the job for four months while the other spends that time looking after their children."

Based on their CVs, both have extensive experience in the former USSR and are well-qualified for the post.

Reaction amongst the Armenian press and blogosphere is more positive than this Daily Mail article portrays it, for what it's worth.
posted by k8t (14 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Even if I wasn't sure this appointment was a good idea, I'd approve of it out of raging spite towards the Daily Mail.
posted by saturday_morning at 9:02 AM on August 21, 2011 [11 favorites]

I like this idea. I hope there will be some followups on how it all works out. (A blog by the Ambassadors would have been really cool though).
posted by infini at 9:07 AM on August 21, 2011

The four months on and off thing is a little strange. I think I'd always feel like I was just getting in the swing of things when it was time to switch over.
posted by something something at 11:07 AM on August 21, 2011

Oh fuck the Daily Mail.
posted by cromagnon at 11:07 AM on August 21, 2011 [1 favorite]

Great to see that they're putting a husband and wife team as diplomats that can start diplomatic incidents.

Did you read the part where they were doing the job in shifts, and not at the same time?
posted by cavalier at 12:17 PM on August 21, 2011

wow, that's... a really interesting idea, with a lot of potential for this particular situation. In political arenas, the officer's spouse often takes on an uncredited but important role in facilitating positive working/professional relationships for the employed officer. I can't see this hiring method catching on elsewhere, as finding a married couple with equal competencies and interest areas must be extremely difficult, but I would be interested in reading a follow-up article 16- or 24-months in. Honestly, it kind of seems like a "win" for Armenia-- shoot, they basically have the insight of two people for the price and position of one.
posted by samthemander at 1:40 PM on August 21, 2011 [2 favorites]

I think that this is worth trying and I hope it succeeds. Dual career is hard enough to manage as it is, but the fact the UK government is willing to give it a try is a step forward.
posted by arcticseal at 7:24 PM on August 21, 2011 [1 favorite]

From the article:

There was some surprise but we were told this was the latest trend in the Foreign Office and that a similar scheme worked well in Zambia.

Also, they did a similar joint-posting role in Japan before this, albeit not in ambassadorial positions.

There will be difficulties working the details out, not the least of which the apparent offence Armenian interlocutors have taken, but full credit to the UK Foreign Office for even trying this out.
posted by the cydonian at 7:26 PM on August 21, 2011

They have 3 kids under 7.

Cheers to them that they're both having successful careers with that many little ones.
posted by k8t at 8:06 PM on August 21, 2011

@hal_c_on, the foreign service isn't like a regular job. An ambassador's spouse is involved no matter what. Most embassies are full of married people.
posted by k8t at 8:07 PM on August 21, 2011 [1 favorite]

It sounds like the set-up for a classic screwball comedy.

Good for them, though. I hope it works out.
posted by lucien_reeve at 12:35 AM on August 22, 2011

Hi. HR guy here. Some of the worst professional situations I've been involved in concerned romantic relationships at work. And the more committed, the longer they've been in the relationship, the worse the situation really becomes.

As an alternative data point, my husband and I have been working together for six years, and never had an issue (it's all down to him, he's zen-master calm). I would happily share a job with him.
posted by ukdanae at 5:01 AM on August 22, 2011

The UK Civil Service is very innovative with shared positions. I have been told that some very senior positions are shared by half-time civil servants who are also mums.
posted by honest knave at 6:16 AM on August 22, 2011

The Armenian version of the Daily Show posted this update:

London Symphonic Orchestra Appointed As New British Ambassador to Armenia
posted by k8t at 9:26 AM on August 29, 2011

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