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Performance appraisal - An integral part of the company EHS (employee humiliation scheme), the closest you get to acting in your own TV programme (hence note the 'K' in the title: a prerequisite for any successful soap).


By VINAY KANCHAN

Performance appraisal - An integral part of the company EHS (employee humiliation scheme), the closest you get to acting in your own TV programme (hence note the ‘K‘ in the title: a prerequisite for any successful soap).


How: First you fill out a complicated form (which you seriously doubt is in English) in all honesty, only to find out later that it has become a written confession of your crimes against the organisation. After that you get the chance to defend yourself before your boss. Much drama and heated exchanges later, you barely manage to justify your existence only to realise that even after one year, your story has not moved forward in terms of increments, confirmations and promotions…



Monday morning Ram was just leaving for his weekly job status with Mr Bose (the client) when Vikas (Ram‘s boss) popped his head over Ram‘s cubicle with all the majesty of a humpback whale trying to clear its nose


"Hey Chief! Have you filled in your appraisal form yet?" Vikas‘ question suddenly injected Ram with the kind of panic one feels when they see Sourav Ganguly winning the toss and putting the Australians in to bat first in a one-day match.


Ram had kept postponing ‘the form filling ritual‘ all weekend trying to get himself fired - focused, psyched up and in the mood for writing fiction - basically all the prerequisites for any appraisal form filling ritual.


However whatever he tried he kept coming back to square one. There was something inherently intimidating about those forms. Firstly there seemed to be too many pages to fill in, too many embarrassing questions to answer and secondly there were acronyms like KRAs (Key Result Areas in case you guys didn‘t know) that made him think he worked with the secret service and his job was to do with keeping the President from pushing the red button.


So the weekend had whiffed by with the speed of ‘that guilty feeling‘ you are supposed to have when you dig into an ice cream in the midst of a diet programme. Still the empty forms stared him in the face.


On the way to the client‘s office that day, Ram again glanced at the forms. They had stuff like "What have been your significant achievements over the past year? What do you evaluate your future worth to your organisation to be? What have been your failures over the last year? Explain in a few words why we should still keep you?" (just kidding on the last one).


Ram had never thought about his job that much. In all fairness he did not even know with all those artworks pending whether he would be able to make it to another of those ‘have no invite but will barge in‘ media parties with his friends that evening, let alone get into a five year planned analysis of his future prospects with that agency.


Back again at the office. Ram was just about starting to put the pen down on paper when Sarita, the account executive who shared his workplace (is that a better word for a cubicle?) made her entry, as usual just before lunch hour… "Maan, I partied sooo much this weekend. That new disc just rocks baby… I just barely managed to come in, I had to… You know how the client makes a fuss the day I don‘t turn up."


Sarita was from the Vikas Finishing School for Ad Executives (AEs) - admissions forms available on the reverse of all artwork flaps. She had joined the same time as Ram but mentally (at least to herself) had moved far ahead.


"Did you fill the appraisal form?" Ram asked her in the cursory manner in which an umpire asks for the third umpire‘s decision when both the runners are at the same end.
"No silly! I will handle it when the appraisal is actually happening, those forms aren‘t for me." She then glided into Vikas‘ room. Ram knew lots of ‘raises‘ would be happening in the near future.


"He who cannot uplift vital parts heemself must endure very few raises," Chai-La (the Chinese canteen boy) appeared with Ram‘s lunch and then disintegrated into nothingness with Yoda like efficiency.


"I‘m done with my appraisal …Vikas tells me I‘m a star," said Sarita after stepping out of Vikas‘ room. Ram responded with the kind of smile the creative director gives you when the client goes ga-ga over the servicing guy‘s headline. He returned to the forms, like all lesser equipped AEs and spent the night finishing them, studiously devoting at least an hour on each question.


Come Wednesday. Ram‘s meeting with Vikas was at 11 am. There he sat in Vikas‘ room waiting for him to arrive. Vikas popped in at 11:07 am sharp (he scheduled all meetings around times that had some element of 7 in them but that‘s another story).


"Hey Chief, all set?" Vikas asked with the vintage ‘concern‘ every servicing person is so equipped with. "Yes," Ram replied not knowing what to expect. The butterflies were doing the samba in his belly and it did not really help that he had eaten scrambled eggs for breakfast that morning (but let‘s not anda-estimate the boy…)


"So how has the last year been?" Vikas opened with the classic sucker punch. Ram knew he was onto something dangerous here but really had no prior experience to fall back on. "Well I think I learnt a lot," Ram started with a seemingly neutral remark. "What did you learn?" Vikas was quick on the counter. Chai-La drifted in with tea cups looked at Ram and telepathically whispered, "The truth doesn‘t help you deliver artworks… why should eet help een your appraisal?" Vikas faintly felt the buzz of static electricity caused by this ‘telecommunication‘ in the room but waved it off as his magnetic personality kicking in.


"I learnt how to look beyond the minor details and see the larger picture. I learnt how to juggle a lot of tasks and yet deliver satisfaction and value to client. I learnt that I was part of a brand unit that was dedicated to clients‘ cause and would stop at nothing to deliver," Ram could scarcely believe his own ears, how he hated himself for spewing such rubbish.


"Ohhh kkk," Vikas was slightly taken aback by Ram‘s over enthusiastic participation. He had to regain the initiative quickly. "That reminds me. Mr Bose has been complaining a lot about you," Vikas said going in for the ‘firing of gun from client‘s shoulder‘ maneuver.


"What about?" Ram was pretty certain the client was under control, at least he had taken double the care to ensure that no goof-ups had happened over the last few days.


"You are only as good as your last period… please word that differently when you tell that to members of the opposite sex," he had remembered Chai-La‘s advice.


"Weeelll… you know you started out very badly with him…" Vikas continued.


"But no one starts out well with Mr Bose, even his reflection has problems."


"But Chief that‘s your job… you got to handle him that‘s what makes you a star… look at Sarita. She has her clients wrapped around her finger."


Sarita, of course, had managed to excuse herself from difficult clients like Mr Bose and had got herself a client who would make Rip Van Winkle seem hyperactive in comparison. Smart Sarita.


"But aren‘t clients different and don‘t we evaluate people who handle them differently?" Ram countered with the ‘my job is unique… man!‘ strategy.


"It‘s the same job… you have the same deliverables, look at her she practically has her client eating out of her hands…"


"Well I don‘t want Bose to be eating out of my hands… I just want to do the right thing for the brand."


"Listen Chief…the biggest brand you build is yourself and you are not doing well there."


Ram stopped in his tracks dead, like his hamstring had just snapped, and listened because for the first time in his life Vikas was probably telling him something of great value. "How do I do that?" He asked awaiting enlightenment.


"You‘ve got to be more like me."


"When I came in I was just like you, that‘s why I like you somewhat. You remind me of the times I used to be dumb and stupid. But that was in the past. Now look at me. I have moved up and am currently the brightest new star in the industry," Vikas was actually glowing when he said that. Closer inspection revealed that one of the blinds had fluttered open and the sun was peeking through.


Ram resisted the urge to call the local astronomy center about the new ‘star‘ sighting, only because he was confused between feeling good and deeply insulted.


"But never mind Chief, you will learn…just follow my lead. Now just get on with your other jobs for the day."


"But what about the feedback you are supposed to give me on my performance?"


"Huh… I see you have listed all your f**k ups here in chronological order …Ha, ha that‘s rich. How do you expect to get confirmed after that?"


"But isn‘t the appraisal system meant to be the place where you take stock of the past year, look at all your mistakes, learn from them and go forward?" Ram thought he detected a distinct snicker on Vikas‘ face.


"Tut, tut Chief. You sound like you really need to spend more time with me. Wake up! You aren‘t in a Disney movie… this is the real world. You have actually listed at least four goof ups here that might cause a problem for you."


Vikas held his brows together in his trademark ‘deep thought‘ routine. "I tell you what …just write in your form that you learnt a lot working under me and I will see what I can do for you. Don‘t worry... if I say it no one can stand in the way of your confirmation."


Ram walked out of the room like a man who had just been mugged, or whose conveyance voucher had been unjustifiably held up… you take your pick.


"Hey sweetie…how did it go?" Sarita‘s words disrupted the stream of wonderfully crafted swear words that were forming in his mind.


"Uh…not so good I think."


"Hey you, want any help I will put in a good word for you. You know how Vikas respects my opinion."


"What should I do? Do I mention you as well in my appraisal form?"


"No sweetie. We are friends aren‘t we?" Sarita smiled. Ram for a moment felt that she wasn‘t that bad after all.


"I need to go for a party tonight. Just take care of my artworks for me. It might take all night. But they are very urgent. And you know how I hate this studio business. You will handle it for me. Wont you sweetie?" Sarita did not even wait for Ram‘s reply as she zoomed into the elevator and towards freedom.


Ram slumped into his chair. Lay his head down on the table.
"Eet is not what you fill in the form. Eet is what you fill between your boss‘ ears that matters," Chai-La‘s words of wisdom stirred Ram.


He lifted his head to glimpse the tea cup on his table and was blinded by a blazing flash of light as Chai-La made his exit into the space time continuum.


Vinay Kanchan - currently client services director with Everest Integrated Communications Limited. He started his career in Lintas (now Lowe). Kanchan is also a soccer freak and organises soccer games for like-minded members of the media fraternity residing in Mumbai‘s suburbs. He can be contacted at vinaykanchan@hotmail.com.


(The views expressed here are those of the author and indiantelevision.com need not necessarily subscribe to the same)



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