The organisational structure of a typical governmental (bureaucratic) organisation has been famously visualised as a tree with officials perched at every level on it. Those at the top of the tree look down and see monkeys. Those at the bottom look up and see arseholes. It is this difference in perception, depending on your position on the tree, which dictates the essence of OB (Organisational Behaviour) though this is not something you would be taught in a management institute ! And it is this peculiar dimension of OB which has spawned that most ubiquitous and interesting of HRD tools – the Annual Confidential Report or ACR as it is known.
The ACR, as we are all aware, is an annual assessment of the performance of the monkeys by the aforesaid arseholes, and is the former’s weapon of last resort (or so they would like to believe). In actual practice, however, the ACR is more alike a bikini in a beach-side beauty contest – it is a mere formality and not to be taken seriously, for the real action, as it were, lies outside its confines.
No one in the government (except perhaps our gullible courts) takes the ACR seriously. For the Reporting Officer its a chore because he has to write up a few hundred of them every 31st March (but its also an opportunity to settle scores with the underling who didn’t proffer that box of sweets last Diwali). For the Reviewing Officer its a more agreeable task because he simply has to scrawl “I agree”. The Accepting Officer (or Minister), the alpha male at the summit of the tree, doesn’t even have to do that – he simply signs and goes off to play golf (or inaugurate a bridge that hasn’t yet been built) while his PA puts a sovereign stamp on it.
The ACR is supposed to determine the officer’s postings and promotions. But since 95% of all officers are rated as Excellent and Outstanding (another monkey trait – you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours) the actual promotions etc, are based on seniority and which political camp one belongs to – for example: lower Himachal or Upper Himachal, green cap or red cap, outsider or insider, present Chief Minister or ex-Chief Minister, apple belt or kinnow belt and so on. The curvature of the spine also plays a part as also one’s yogic skills particularly a mastery of the SIR NAMASKAR, a bureaucratic variation of the SURYA NAMASKAR, performed every morning when the Chief Minister is entering his office. The SHOVE-IT ASAN, a variation of the SHAV ASAN also helps, on the premise that if your attitude is to say ” Shove it” every time a problem arises and do nothing, you can’t be accused of taking a wrong decision can you ?
One would expect from the above, therefore, that a typical ACR would be a dreary desert of drab prose signifying nothing. One would be right – most of the time, but not always. For occasionally these ACRs contain rare gems of wit and expression that can compare with the best in literature. Its like wading through a desert of persiflage and suddenly coming upon a cool and refreshing oasis. Over the years I and a friend have been compiling some of these “mot juste” and “suggestio falsi” comments: my friend will have to remain anonymous for he’s still perched on that tree and vulnerable to the apes above him. However, this is as good a time as any to share them with the readers of this blog post. Here then are some of the comments we have compiled over the years :
* He has a fine mind – in fact so fine that no mere idea could ever penetrate it. (I detect shades of TS Eliot over here – author).
* His men would follow him anywhere, but only out of curiosity.
* He is a very quiet officer. He opens his mouth only to change whichever foot was previously there.
* Since my last report he has reached rock bottom – and has now started to dig.
* He sets low personal standards and then consistently fails to achieve them.
* He has carried out each and everyone of his duties to his entire satisfaction.
* [ About a PWD engineer]: The roads built by him are like the road to hell – paved with good intentions only.
* He has the wisdom of youth and the energy of old age.
* This officer should go far – in fact the farther the better.
* This man is depriving a village somewhere of an idiot.
* He tours a lot, visiting his office occasionally.
* He has a highly developed sense of right and wrong; this helps him to invariably choose the latter every time.
But my own personal favourite is this comment by a District judge in the ACR of his Reader :
“A very competent Reader – he writes beautiful judgements.”
Now, surely, this is one bikini that reveals more than it conceals!