Military Career Tips — Supersession for Promotion — How to cope with it


Musings by Vikram Karve



Part 1

Supersession Blues — Have you “missed the boat”…?



Earlier — Military Officers were quite sensitive about Rank and Seniority — especially Senior Officers.

On being superseded and “passed over” for promotion — most Officers did not like to serve under their erstwhile Juniors.

So — most Superseded Officers would honorably quit uniform — the moment they were “passed over” for promotion and superseded by their Juniors — by resigning or taking premature retirement.

This was especially so in the case of Senior Military Officers.

Many years ago — a distinguished General — who was the Vice Chief of the Army — quit the Army immediately — when he was superseded for promotion to the post of Army Chief by his Junior.

He did not want to serve even for one day under his erstwhile junior.

A few years ago — there was a similar case in the Navy — where the C-in-C of Western Naval Command quit the Navy — when he was superseded for the post of Navy Chief by his Junior — the Vice Chief of the Navy — who was appointed as the new Navy Chief — instead of the “Senior Most Officer” — the C-in-C of the “Sword Arm” of the Navy — the Western Naval Command.

I heard that there was a similar case in the Air Force too.

However — this overly rank/seniority conscious mindset seems to be changing.

Generals who were superseded for the post of Army Chief — they happily served as Army Commanders under their erstwhile junior — who was appointed the Army Chief — and so do many other officers — yes — nowadays most superseded officers who have no qualms about serving under the command of their erstwhile juniors.

The “Moral of the Story” is that — as per the “New Age” Military Ethos — old military concepts like “Honour” have become obsolete and antiquated.

In the “New Age” Military — “Materialism” is the new “Mantra”.

Over the years — the Defence Services are becoming more and more like the Civil Services — especially at the “Top Heavy” Senior Level.

So — rather than bother about archaic “old world” military concepts like the “Chetwode Credo” , “Honour”, “Military Ethics and Moral Values” etc — today’s Defence Officers take a pragmatic and practical view of life.

Hence — rather than quit the service on getting superseded for promotion — and consequently lose out financially and materially — most superseded officers feel that it is best for “passed over” Officers to continue serving after their supersession — till the age of superannuation — or even beyond — on re-employment — even if it means serving under your erstwhile juniors.

All this reminds me of my “Supersession Day”…



“Memoirs” of a “Written Off” “Passed Over” “Fallen By the Wayside” Officer

A Spoof By Vikram Karve



The Navy Promotion IG (Signal) was released in the evening — and by next morning everyone knew the news — who had “made it” — and who had been “written off”.

My name was not on the “select list”.

I had been “passed over” for promotion.

For me — this came as a bolt from the blue — and — I felt “shell-shocked”.

I was under the impression that I had done well in my Naval Career — good performance in the right courses — the best appointments on frontline warships and ashore — and — just a few weeks earlier — my boss had told me that he had found out from “reliable sources” that I was sure to be promoted — and he had even discussed my next appointment in my new rank.

My boss liked me — and he was extremely disappointed that I had been “superseded”.

My boss genuinely commiserated with me on my bad luck — and — he told me to take the day off — and he assured me that he would help me in whatever way possible.

Plenty of “well-wishers” dropped by to show their sympathy for my misfortune.

A course-mate (whose name was on the “select list”) tried to console me by commenting that the most “hot shot” officer “X” in our batch had also been “passed over”.

“By the way — if it is any consolation to you — even “X” has not made it to the select list…” he said.

His sly suggestion that I may be consoled by someone else’s misfortune hurt me very much.


I got furious at his “fake consolation”.

So — I said angrily to him:

“How the hell does it matter to me — whether “X” is promoted — or not…?

Why should I feel comforted by someone else’s misfortune…?

The fact is that — “my goose is cooked” — I am sunk.

And — the bottom-line is that my Naval Career is over.

I just don’t care who has been promoted — or not promoted.

The reality is that I have not been promoted — and that is all that matters to me…”


On hearing my angry words — he looked contrite — and he said to me:

“I am sorry — I was only trying to console you…”


Then — he left my office.

A few minutes later — another fellow Naval Officer came in.

He was two years senior to me.

He had missed his promotion twice — he had got 2 “R’s” — and he had become very desperate for promotion — but finally — he had made it to the select list in his 3rd and last attempt.

“Congratulations…” I said.

“Thanks…” he said, “but I am feeling very sorry about you — we all were very sure that you would easily make it to the select list…”

He told me that all the “select listed” officers had hoisted a “Gin Pennant” to celebrate their promotion — a Pre-Lunch Drinks (PLD) Beer Party to “wet” their new stripes.

My friend had come to personally invite for the “stripe-wetting” Beer Session.

My “inner voice” told me not to go for the “stripe-wetting” promotion party.


So — I said to him:

“Please try to understand — I am really not in the mood to celebrate right now — but I will surely have a drink with you some other time…”


My friend looked at me with empathy and said:

“I understand your feelings — I have gone through the same emotions twice.

You take care — we will have a talk later…”


And then — he left my office.

I sat in my office — feeling depressed — when the phone rang.

It was my friend “P” calling from Delhi — a “trunk call” — as they called it those days.

“Congratulations…” my friend “P” said cheerfully — the moment he heard my voice on the phone.

I was stunned.

“P” was appointed in Naval Headquarters.

So — surely — “P” knew that I had not made it to the “select list”.

Surely — “P” knew that I had been “passed over” for promotion.

Hence — I was very upset to hear “P” saying “Congratulations” to me on this sad occasion.


Getting angry –I said to “P” in an accusing tone:

“Sir — why are you “congratulating” me…?

I have “missed the boat”– my name is not in the “select list”…”


My friend “P” said to me:

“I know that your name is not on the select list.

I am “congratulating” you on your “supersession”…”


I was flabbergasted.

“P” was a very good friend — and I considered him a well-wisher.

We had done our specialization course together — but having spent time doing his Basic Engineering Course (BEC) — since he was an ex-NDA Officer — “P” was one year senior to me.

He had been promoted the previous year — and — I had been the first person to congratulate him.

And now — I wondered why was he was “rubbing salt into my wound”…?

I thought about it.

No — he would never do that — because “P” was a genuine friend of mine.

I wondered whether “P” had gone crazy.

Owing to my silence — “P” must have sensed my train of thoughts.


Over the phone — my friend “P” said to me:

“You think I have gone crazy — haven’t you…?

But think about what I am saying carefully.

Till now — you let the Navy “enjoy” you.

But now — it is time for you to “enjoy” the Navy…”


I was quite confused on hearing this.

“What do you mean…?” I asked “P”.


In a genuinely caring tone of voice –“P” said to me:

“Don’t take any hasty step like “Quitting the Navy” etc.

You have a good reputation — and most senior officers feel that you should have made it to high rank.

Everyone is surprised that you have been “superseded”.

I know you are feeling very disappointed too.

But — just relax.

You just continue working to the best of your ability.

Think about how you can realize your best potential — think of a job you enjoy and have a flair for — where you can develop your talents.

The Navy will look after you.

Talk to your wife.

I will call you again tomorrow.

You just tell me where you want to go — which type of appointment you want — and we will try to put you there…”


It was comforting to hear these words of “P”.

I decided to think over his advice.

“Thank you. I will think it out and call you tomorrow…” I said to “P”.


That evening — I went on a long walk up Dolphin’s Nose.

I sat down — looking at the soothing blue sea of the Bay of Bengal.

As I introspected — the import of what “P” had said became clear to me.

I decided to live my life to the fullest as a “superseded officer”.


Next morning — I called up “P” — and I told him where I wanted to go — and what I wanted to do.

Within 6 months — I was sitting in my new appointment — the very choice appointment that I had requested.

I thoroughly enjoyed my appointment.

It was long tenure — professionally satisfying and personally fulfilling.

And then — even after this — the Navy gave me good appointments and a stable life.

I served in the Navy till I attained the age of “superannuation”.

It has been my personal experience that the Navy really looks after “superseded officers”.

Most officers show understanding and consideration towards “superseded” officers.

Of course there are a few “aberrations” — but they can easily be dealt with.

To the extent feasible — care was taken to ensure that my boss had joined the Navy well before me — and he was much senior to me — not only in rank — but in service as well.

I got good appointments where I could nurture my talents and develop myself — and — I was given a free hand to perform to the best of my ability and derive job satisfaction.


In conclusion — I can proudly say — that:

I contributed more to the service after my “supersession” — than before my “supersession”.



In the Armed Forces — due to the “steep pyramid” hierarchy structure — there are very few vacancies at higher ranks — and most officers are “passed over” for promotion and “superseded” at a relatively young age — in their 30’s and 40’s.


When you are “passed over” for promotion and “superseded” — you have 3 choices:

1. You can Quit the Service immediately by Resigning your Commission. (even if it means giving up your pension and forgoing/losing many benefits).

2. You can wait for a few years to complete 20 years pensionable service — and then seek Premature Retirement (PMR).

3. You can serve till you attain the age of “superannuation”. (Earlier the minimum superannuation age was 54 years — but I understand that this has now been increased to 57 years — and some officers continue for a few more years on “re-employment”).


It is for you to take a considered decision in a “holistic manner depending on your personal temperament, life ambitions and financial status — and after reflecting on various familial obligations in their entirety.

You may be prepared for the career and lifestyle changes for a “second innings” in “Civvy Street” — but are your wife and children ready for the huge lifestyle and social changes — when they suddenly migrate from “fauji life” to civilian life…?

Now — with the implementation of the “No OROP for PMR” Rule — many ‘superseded’ officers may consider ‘Option 3’ above — and serve till they attain the age of ‘superannuation’ — in order to get the benefit of ‘One Rank One Pension’ (OROP).

The choice of choosing from the 3 options is yours — after considering the Pros and Cons.

But — after ‘supersession’ — if you choose to serve till superannuation — you can have a “fulfilling” life in the Defence Services — if you have the right attitude — as encapsulated in the advice my friend “P” gave me on my ‘supersession’:

“Till now — you let the Navy “enjoy” you.

But now — it is time for you to “enjoy” the Navy…”


As I said earlier — I contributed more to the service after my ‘supersession’ than before my ‘supersession’ — and while doing so — I nurtured my talents, found my ‘métier’ and developed my ‘forte’.

The “Proof of the Pudding” is my widely read and popular Blogs:

My highly appreciated Academic and Creative Writing Journal Vikram Karve Blog has more than 3.5 Million (35 Lakh) pageviews and this Blog you are reading right now Writing by Vikram Karve is also extremely popular too and is read by at least 3000 persons every day and the total pageviews will easily be more than 1.5 Million (15 Lakh) — besides many more blogs, websites and social media where I write/post my creative work.

Yes — I have many other blogs/websites — like this one you are reading — so — I can say that there have been around 5 Million (50 Lakh) views of my Writing (Stories, Articles, Papers etc) — that I have posted online on my blogs and on the internet.

And yes — I have published a couple of books and large number of articles/papers/stories in print too.

Also — I was able to pursue an academic career later.

Had I not been “passed over” for promotion — in all probability — I would have become a part of the “rat race” for promotion — sweating it out — jumping from one “hot shot” appointment to another.

In such a “rat race” career situation — I doubt I whether would have had the inclination and time to discover my “métier” in Creative Writing/Blogging — to nurture and develop my creative writing skills — and to become a prolific writer and blogger — all of which has fructified into Books, Blogs and the numerous Fiction and Non-Fiction Writings that I have published.


Now — you may ask me the moot question:

“How to “Enjoy” Supersession…?”


That — I will tell you in Part 2 of this article…



Part 2

What do you do if your career “dumps” you…?



In my previous blog post — I told you that — in the Defence Services — when you are “passed over” for promotion and “superseded” — you have 3 choices:

1. You can Quit the Service immediately by Resigning your Commission.

(even if it means giving up your pension and forgoing/losing many benefits)

2. You can wait for a few years to complete 20 years pensionable service — and then seek Premature Retirement (PMR).

3. You can serve till you attain the age of “superannuation”.

(Earlier the minimum superannuation age was 54 years — but I understand that this has now been increased to 57 years — and some officers continue for a few more years on “re-employment”)


This article is for those “superseded” officers who decide to choose the 3rd option and continue serving till they attain the age of superannuation.


Metaphorical Example:



Let me explain metaphorically.

Suppose you have a steady girlfriend to whom you intend getting married and spending the rest of your life.

You have been loyal, sincere and devoted to your girlfriend.

Suppose she suddenly dumps you.

How will you feel…?

Won’t you feel betrayed…?

Similarly — won’t you feel “betrayed” the moment you are superseded for promotion…?

You have been loyal to the service — but — the service has not been loyal to you in return.

For no apparent reason — the service has “dumped” you.

You faithfully loved your girlfriend — and she dumped you.

You were totally devoted to the service — and the service “dumped” you.

Now — once your girlfriend has dumped you — what are the options open to you…?

Think about it.


What are your options if you are dumped by your girlfriend…?

1. You can become vindictive towards her — and try to harm her.

2. You can indulge in self-pity and sink into depression.

3. You can plead with your girlfriend to take you back into her life — you can beg and beseech her to reconsider her decision to dump you.

4. You can move on in life and forget about her.

5. You can try to acquire a new girlfriend.



What are your options when you are superseded…?


1. You can become “bitter” and resentful and start behaving in an acrimonious and spiteful manner.

Such rancorous behavior will spoil inter-personal relationships and create “bad blood” in the environment — and — such negative vibes not only affect your own mental and physical health but will affect your family, friends and colleagues as well.


2. You can “internalize” your sorrow, start brooding and indulge in self-pity.

Excessive self-commiseration will not only will make you miserable and cause you depression — but it may also push you towards alcoholism if you have a tendency to “drown” your sorrows in drink.

I have seen many superseded officers becoming alcoholics.


As an aside — let me tell you what one witty senior officer said about me when I was superseded.

When I was passed over and superseded for promotion — the senior officer opined about me:

“We don’t have to worry about him (me) becoming an alcoholic.

The bugger is already a bloody drunkard.

For all you know — supersession may have the opposite effect on him — and he may stop drinking…”


By the way — I did quit drinking — albeit a few years after supersession…


So — after getting superseded — you can become bitter and vindictive — you can indulge in self-pity — or — like in the “dumped by your girlfriend” metaphor — there are two more options:


3. You can “plead” with the service to promote you.

This can be done in a number of ways.

You can “beg” your seniors for “thumping” ACRs to enable you to get promoted in the remaining attempts.

Or — you can take the “official” route — put up representations, statutory complaints and indulge in litigation etc.

All this will fill you with anxiety and stress.

And — if you get involved in litigation — besides the expenses involved — your mind will start thinking negative thoughts — especially as you keep discussing your case “ad nauseam” with lawyers and “sea lawyers”.

Instead of thinking interesting creative positive thoughts — your mind will be constantly preoccupied with negative thinking.

All this negativity will affect your family and environment too.


3. Or — like in the “girlfriend dumping” metaphor — you can choose the option of moving on in life and acquiring a new “girlfriend”.

Now — if you had chosen the option of resigning and quitting the service immediately after you are superseded — this new “girlfriend” can be a new job in “Civvy Street”.

However — since you have decided to serve till superannuation — you will have to find this new “girlfriend” within the service.

How do you do this…?

How did I do this…?

Read below…



Firstly — you must be clear in your mind that the service has “rejected” you — and now — you are an “unwanted” entity.

(just like the example of your girlfriend “dumping” you and not wanting you anymore)

You have been brutally superseded — “passed over” for promotion — “written off” — “fallen by the wayside” — “deadwood” — discarded, redundant and unwanted by the environment.

You have been sidelined from the mainstream — you have been put on a sidetrack — and those on the main track don’t care two hoots about you.

So — don’t expect any “sympathy” from the system.

You are on your own — “index” — as they say in the Navy — and — you have to discover the best way to continue your journey in service as a “superseded” officer till you reach the age of superannuation.

(If some seniors, course-mates and friends are helpful — consider it as a bonus — but don’t expect it)

By the time you are superseded — you would have done many appointments in a variety of jobs.

That’s the beauty of the Armed Forces (especially the Navy) — they make you work in a variety of jobs so that you become the “Jack of all Trades”.

Introspect — reflect — think about it:

Of all the jobs you did in your service — which is the job you enjoyed the most…?

In my case — I had loved serving on ships the best.

But sadly — this job was ruled out after supersession — since — those days — superseded officers were not appointed for sea duties — which were considered mandatory “criteria” appointments for promotion.

Maybe — it was the view of the “powers-that-be” that — since superseded officers were not eligible for selection for promotion — there was no point “wasting” a criteria appointment on “passed over” officers.


Also — remember the cardinal dictum:

The moment you are superseded for promotion — you are officially declared “incompetent”.


So — overnight — from being a professional “hot shot” officer — I became professionally “incompetent” — at least in the eyes of the system.

Hence — I became ineligible for “prestigious” high-profile appointments ashore.

Having ruled out these “high profile” options — I explored suitable “low profile” opportunities available to me.

I had done two tenures “instructional duties”:

1. One Tenure at Navy Training “Stone Frigate” INS Valsura

(where I had taught Naval Officers undergoing the Specialization Course)


2. One Tenure at the Institute of Armament Technology (IAT) Pune

(where as faculty I had taught and guided an Advanced Post Graduate Master’s (ME) Course called Advanced Naval Weapon Systems Engineering Course aka ANWSEC)

3. Also:

I had served in Research and Development (R&D) appointment.

I had served in a Naval Dockyard.

I had a stint as a “Babu in Uniform” pushing files.


Of the above options — I liked “instructional” appointments the best — especially IAT Pune — where the egalitarian “laissez faire” multi-service environment was conducive to superseded officers — much better than the “regimented” rank-conscious ethos at INS Valsura.

(Though “Quality Assurance” (QA) appointments were considered “suitable” for superseded officers — I hadn’t served in a “QA” billet — and so — I was quite averse to trying out something that was unknown).


As advised my “mentors” — I put up a request for an appointment in IAT Pune — and — thanks to my well-wishers — six months later — I was appointed to IAT Pune on “Instructional Duties”.

(Coincidentally — IAT had asked for an Officer with Qualitative Requirements (QRs) which matched my qualifications/experience. Thus — even fate had ordained my appointment to IAT Pune. Also — my earlier tenure at IAT had helped a great deal).

I must say that the Navy shows due consideration to “passed over” officers and Navy Human Resource (HR) Management System tries to soften the blow of supersession by giving suitable appointments and long tenures to superseded officers.

Not only did Navy give me my choice appointment at IAT Pune — but they gave me a long tenure too — more than 8 years.

This was followed by another long tenure of 6 years at Mumbai in the premier Naval Dockyard.


(Prior to supersession — my average tenure in a station was less than 2 years)


Did I do justice to my appointment at IAT Pune…?

I would love to blow my own trumpet — but — I will just quote two extracts from two souvenirs (coffee table books) published by IAT Pune during its Golden Jubilee.


Extract from page 63 of History of IAT — 50 Years of Excellence (1952–2002)

From Chapter on R&D Activities in Wings.

“Cdr VW Karve was the main pillar for many years and made the largest possible contributions to the students, faculty and institute. Numerous papers published by him in national and international journals earned a name for the Institute”


Extract from page 41 of IAT Golden Jubilee Souvenir

From the article “A Grateful Student Remembers”.

“Though not widely practiced, Cdr Karve’s Captain Haddockesque approach to education intrigued me enough to try out the concurrent methodology in conjunction with the sequential methodology, I was already into. It was an eventful and illuminating two semesters under the guidance of Cdr Karve, who was an Institute within the Institute”



Once you are “superseded” and “passed over” for promotion — if you choose to continue in service — it is best to make the most of it — by trying to identify and select a suitable “job” (within service parameters) — a job in harmony with your talent — a métier where you can flourish and contribute your best to the service too.

Self-Pity, Bitterness and Negative Thinking may prove counterproductive to your mental well-being and health.

Indulging in litigation and fighting court cases may affect your “peace of mind”.

Remember the “dumped by girlfriend” metaphor.

Move on — be positive — introspect — discover your “métier” — find a new suitable “girlfriend” with whom you feel you can achieve your best — and — make the most of it.


To be continued in Part 3 of Superseded Officer’s Survival Guide…



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  1. This story is a fictional spoof, satire, pure fiction, just for fun and humor, no offence is meant to anyone, so take it with a pinch of salt and have a laugh.
  2. All stories in this blog are a work of fiction. Events, Places, Settings and Incidents narrated in the stories are a figment of my imagination. The characters do not exist and are purely imaginary. Any resemblance to persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.

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A creative person with a zest for life, alumnus IIT Delhi, Lawrence School Lovedale, Vikram Karve is a retired Navy Officer turned full time Writer and Blogger

A creative person with a zest for life, alumnus IIT Delhi, Lawrence School Lovedale, Vikram Karve is a retired Navy Officer turned full time Writer and Blogger