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Five ways to brighten a dull day

By George Fripley - posted Friday, 26 September 2008

Life in the public 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 implementing the five paradigms of government properly. In times like these you will need to have some ways to brighten up your day and give your public service life some meaning.

Cultivate a grudge

All good bureaucrats need to have cultivated at least one grudge in their time in the public service. A grudge will give you a hobby which you can enjoy whenever you like. It will usually make someone’s life difficult, though preferably without them being aware that it’s 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 boring and soulless work, 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 perhaps where someone just seems ripe to be the subject of a grudge. It really doesn’t 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 move 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 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! 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; and (but not limited to)
  • multi-phase expanded organisational continuum.

Invent jargon with acronyms

Of course, 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 to the Minister that you know will come to you to answer

No matter what area you work in, their will be times in government 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 the Minister (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 the Minister go to a public servant to draft the response that the Minister 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 times it takes to get a response back to you through the system.

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About the Author

George Friplely has worked in the public service for more than eight years, and in that time has risen to the dizzying heights of managing an agency (for a brief period of time). He has a great deal of experience in dealing with the day-to-day decision-making processes and has a wealth of knowledge about government process. He is currently in hiding among the stacks of files in his government department, hoping that his revelations do not cause him to become the subject of an ASIO investigation, or worse still, that somebody realises that he actually exists and sends some work his way! George blogs at and George's thoughts on government and bureaucracy are now available in the definitive government employees manual, You Can't Polish A Turd - the Civil Servant's Manual, published by Night Publishing. His next book provisionally titled The Dregs of History is due for release in 2011.

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