Some Civil Servants question Bell Curve methodology

There are many civil servants voicing their concerns over the Bell Curve methodology under Managing for Excellence (MaX) System which has been employed by the Royal Civil Service Commission (RCSC) since 2016 to evaluate performance ratings. The critics says this system demoralizes employees, discourages collaboration and creativity, and promotes subjective rankings.

The recent case that highlights the dissatisfaction with the Bell Curve system was that of the former Director General of the Department of Tourism. With nearly three decades of dedicated service to the nation and a track record of successful projects in agriculture and Gasa, he received the rating of ‘Partially Meets Expectation’ (PME) during his tenure at the Department of Tourism. This has raised questions about the fairness of the bell curve , particularly the mandate that requires someone to fall into the PME category, even when overall performance is commendable.

RCSC implemented the bell curve methodology for performance ratings in 2016, which mandates that a certain percentage of civil servants fall under the PME classification, regardless of their actual performance. This rigid distribution designates 5 percent for supervisory civil servants, 3 percent for P2 and lower ranks, and 2 percent for educators, all classified as PME – the lowest rating.

A health staff from Monggar Hospital views the Bell Curve of having the mandate of 3 percent under PME as unfair.

He added, “The mandate from RCSC dictates that a certain percentage of civil servants must fall into the PME category, regardless of their actual performance.” He further added that there could be a time when every civil servant gives their best service delivery, however, the mandate of having a certain percentage of civil servants under the PME category seems more unfair and could lead to subjective rankings from the supervisor, at times.

Another long-serving civil servant working in Thimphu with 24 years of experience expressed his views, saying, “This strategy may have its merits, but it’s been implemented at the wrong time, especially as hundreds of civil servants are resigning and moving abroad to places like Australia and Canada.” While he acknowledged the effectiveness of the MaX and Bell curve system in other institutions around the world, it is challenging to bring in to fit into the Bhutanese culture, especially during the time of global migration.

He shared his views on greater flexibility within the system to motivate civil servants in their service delivery.

Another Civil Servant also shared the incident , whereby the required number to be under the PME category was filled with those staff resigning to go abroad. So, they were placed under the PME category. “These civil servants were unfairly categorized as PME, despite the possibility of their service delivery being outstanding, such cases can provoke the unfairness within the institutions,” he said,

Meanwhile, a contract teacher from Sarpang shared the concern of contract teachers who often find themselves graded as PME despite their hard work and dedication, which involves long hours of teaching. This grading, the teacher explained, not only affects their morale but also brings risk to their prospects, as it is reflected in the Zhiyog recruitment system. The teacher further added, “Such implementation demoralizes and discourages teachers from giving their best in the next academic years, pushing them to consider paths that lead abroad.”

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