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State Department (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File) State Department
(J. Scott Applewhite/AP)

Foreign service officers at the State Department are headed into the review-writing season. These detailed, orchestrated reviews are critical for future assignments and promotions, and FSOs labor over them for hours and hours. They are known officially as Employee Evaluation Reports (EERs). The reports are then reviewed by the evaluation panels for equally long periods.

Writing them is considered an art form at Foggy Bottom and most everywhere. Certain individuals in the department are regarded as masters of the art. The department, we’re told, even gives out  awards, or “commendations,” to employees judged to have done the best job of writing about their own accomplishments. The commendation of course goes in the employee’s folder and can be referenced in writing the next year’s EER.

We hear the list from last year of employees commended for describing themselves in the most lavish terms is 12 pages long. 

You might scoff, but these self-evaluations are actually quite difficult. If you are honest and rate yourself less than a “one” in any category  — and thus give the bosses a reason to demote or get rid of you — then you’re an idiot.

But for most people it’s hard to answer questions like: “How would you improve your performance next year?” Tip: Say something like: “Since I turn in an excellent performance seven days a week for the department, I’m going to try to figure out how to squeeze in an eighth day.”

They should give a prize for these things. Maybe “The Stephen Glass Award for Creative Writing”?

Al Kamen, an award-winning columnist on the national staff of The Washington Post, created the “In the Loop” column in 1993.

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