Don’t know if you know this already. Perhaps the media did not cover it widely enough. Perhaps ash clouds came in the way. But a high-profile minister of state was recently forced to quit his job because of allegations surrounding allotment of a team in the Indian Premier League.
Now I know what you are thinking. “WHAT! Financial malpractices in cricket? Impossible! Who would have thought! And a political nexus?!! I am breaking down into a sweat equity just thinking about it! What will we discover next? That Palika Bazaar has pirated DVDs? Impossible!”
However, the questions on my mind were very different: Now that this minister has quit, what will his HR people make him do? Does he have to fill out forms? Attend exit interviews with the Prime Minister perhaps? Return his swipe card and parking sticker?
But most importantly: Does he have to serve a notice period?
The notice period, when you think about it, is a company’s last hurrah. (Kindly note the disturbing presence of two HRs in that word.) It is a last, full and final opportunity for the establishment to send you through the wringer just once before letting you go. Or so I assume. I am yet to meet a single employee who thinks of notice periods as anything less excruciating than root canal treatment. Inside a moving bus. Without the lights on. While watching Phoonk 2.
From a company’s perspective, the idea of a notice period makes complete sense. Perhaps an employee is working on an important project that needs to be completed. A sudden departure could jeopardize everything.
Then there are some positions, such as office culture columnist, that are so difficult to fill that you need the two months to do a comprehensive manhunt and find a replacement. (Though the best thing is to always give this hypothetical columnist such a sizeable hypothetical raise in May that the issue of a notice period is avoided.)
Some people do such complicated things in the office that it could take weeks to explain to a successor how things work: “First you open this spreadsheet, copy this long sequence of letters and numbers, and then use an FTP connection to link with this server in our Atlanta office. Good. Now click on this button here and then simultaneously press Control, Alt and Shift. And then wait for five seconds. And that’s it. You can now access Facebook from the office…”
In such cases, the notice period helps to smoothen the transition. And overall makes things easier for the outgoing employee, the unsuspecting successor, the company and the people in HR.
So then what happens when a minister quits? Surely he is subject to even stricter norms?
I decided to investigate and uncover the truth. After a few phone calls to people in high places all over Delhi, I was able to reach the office of a bureaucrat well versed in the dark arts of ministerial resignations.
So, what does the minister do the day after he has resigned? I asked.
“Nothing at all. He doesn’t come to office from the next day.”
What? Not even for a farewell party?
“Oh, you naïve child. As per protocol, a minister who has left a position is not expected to ever step in the ministry again. That chapter is closed forever. It is up to the rest of us to clean up after him.”
How bitter you sound?
“Oh, how bitter you would also sound if you had just a 15-day winding down period.”
“Yes. The staff in the minister’s office is given just 15 days to make it appear as if he never existed. Office must be emptied. Staff relieved. Papers collected and indexed. Secret papers must be destroyed. And inventories must be taken.”
Inventories? Of what?
“Objets d’art. You know. Paintings on the wall. Statues on the table. Decorative items here and there. Things like that. We must take a careful inventory of all such items and then put them in storage till someone else picks it up, or another minister joins.”
And the ex-minister has no say in things at all? He doesn’t drop by to pick up things or leave notes for his successor?
“Are you asking me if a minister of the government of India who has just quit will come back and try to make things easier for his successor or his successor’s staff? And this out of his own good free will?”
And then after all this winding down is complete, files have been closed, notifications have been sent out and paintings have been warehoused, what happens to you guys?
“Some of us go back into the system. Any personal staff that may have been hired get fired. They go home.”
“I know. No one really appreciates the work we bureaucrats need to do. OK, I have to run. Match is starting.”
Cubiclenama takes a fortnightly look at the pleasures and perils of corporate life. Your comments are welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org