Life in the civil service, or any other bureaucracy for that matter, can have its boring moments when nothing appears to be happening. This may happen quite a lot if you are properly implementing the paradigms of government. In times like these you will need to have some ways to brighten up your day, or at least give your civil service life some meaning.
Cultivate a Grudge
All good bureaucrats need to have cultivated at least one grudge during their time in the civil service. A grudge will give you a hobby that you can enjoy whenever you like. It will usually make someone’s life difficult, though preferably without them being aware that it is you that is causing them problems. If you find yourself the subject of what seems to be a lot of bad luck, few opportunities, or even just more boring and soulless work than usual, you are probably the subject of a grudge.
A good grudge can be cultivated where you feel someone of less merit was awarded a promotion, or perhaps where someone has made a decision that has given you more work to do, or even where someone just seems ripe to be the subject of a grudge.
It really does not matter who you choose, so long as you work to make their life difficult and have fun in the process.
The more senior you are in government, the more grudges you will be able to accumulate, and the more entertainment you can devise to make your days go by more rapidly. In fact, by the time you are a Director, you should have at least five well-cultivated grudges that colour your every decision.
Invent Some Jargon
The nature of jargon means that at any one time there is new jargon being invented by some boffin or career bureaucrat somewhere in the world. It would be a shame if you missed out on this. So, a way to pass some time is to invent your own phrases. The minimum you should aim for is a three-phase high-impact neologism. Once you have become comfortable with this you can progress on to four and five-phase jargon. Anything more than a five-phase fustian phraseology will lose its impact on the reader. The ultimate accolade for inventors of jargon is to see their own phrase included in a government document. This shows that your invention is gaining ground and that some poor soul has convinced themselves that they know what it means. This is extraordinary, as you know it was just meaningless crap. Some examples of meaningless drivel are included below.
• Collaborative database nodes
• Enhanced empirical capability
• Interactive operational paradigm
• Relevant talent dimension
• Functional competency matrix
• Replicable human capital synergies
• High-resolution talent protocols
• Emergent executive mission statement
• Corporate risk management feedback-loops
• Multi-phase expanded organisational continuum
Invent Jargon with Acronyms
To take your jargon to the next level, you need to disguise it in an acronym. This adds an extra layer of confusion to the term and sends people scurrying for a dictionary or searching the Internet for an explanation of the term. The more amusing your acronym, the better. Five examples are included below.
• Joint Australian Regional Government Organisational Network (JARGON)
• Notional Organisational Benchmark (NOB)
• Transitory Work Allocation Timetable (TWAT)
• Comprehensive Risk Assessment Protocol (CRAP)
• Global Undirected Feedback Framework (GUFF)
Write a letter that you know will come to you to answer
No matter what area you work in, there will be times when you will have your own views on a particular matter that you are dealing with on behalf of the government. At these times, you can write a letter to a politician (under a pseudonym of course) and wait for it to work its way through the system and onto your desk (members of the public are often unaware that letters to politicians go to a civil servant to draft the response that the politician then signs). You can then spend your time composing a well thought out institutional response to your question. If you write enough of these letters you will also be able to keep track of how well the bureaucracy is working by comparing the time it takes to get a response back to you through the system.
Start a Rumour
Many an enjoyable day has been spent watching the result of a well-prepared rumour. The government rumour mill will spread the word as quick as greased lightning. For example, a well-placed whisper that a major restructure is in the wind after a visit by an unknown ‘suit’ will take off like wildfire. To start the rumour you should make the suggestion to a colleague that you have heard the man is a Human Resources consultant with a reputation for ‘streamlining’ departments. Never directly suggest that you think a review is in the wind; just give enough information to set off the minds of the impressionable into a stream of consciousness that will head in the direction of a dark and scary tunnel. The impressionable person, probably a drama queen or a very bitter and cynical employee, will hit the ground running. Before you know it someone will be saying to you – ‘Did you know that a departmental review is happening?’ and you can truthfully say – ‘Really? I hadn’t heard that before. Who told you?’
George Fripley is the author of You Can't Polish a Turd - the Civil Servant's Manual and the soon to be released Dregs of History.