The Performance Review

We sat across from each other at the conference table, a round oak affair, and put on our business faces. I wore my fitted red pencil skirt and matching blazer – feminine but powerful – while he donned black slacks, a collared white shirt, and a mustache tie. What does a mustache tie look like, you ask? Why, it is a silver skinny tie with tiny black prints of handlebar mustaches, tips curled upward. Very professional.

But he looked nervous. I liked that. It showed that he took this thing seriously, despite the mustache tie.

“Shall I just begin, then?” I asked, then immediately regretted it. I shouldn’t have asked; I should have just acted. Now I was the one who seemed nervous.

“Y-eh-s,” Alonso said, but it came out scratchy and creaky, like he needed oiling. He cleared his throat and tried again. “Yes.”

I glanced down at the table as though I expected to find notes there, perhaps a legal pad full of scribblings or a file folder of memos. But of course there was nothing except polished wood and the light lemony scent of Pledge. I kept my notes in the top drawer of my mind; I took on mental clutter in exchange for physical neatness.

“This is only the second quarter,” I began, “but I did set a high performance goal for this quarter, considering we were a bit lacking last quarter.”

Alonso shifted in his seat. It was clear he wanted to defend himself, but he knew he had to hear me out first. I had the power to let him go, and with his limited experience he might not find another opportunity that quickly.

“I know we both want the same thing,” I continued. “Growth. Synergy. A future. But these quarterly evaluations allow us to understand if we are a good fit. Sometimes wanting the same thing isn’t enough; you have to go about getting it in the same manner, otherwise it is reflective of different values. I run this ship under a certain set of values and I expect them to be upheld.”

“But I thought this was a partnership,” Alonso said, unable to help himself.

I sighed. “It is. And you are equally capable of terminating this partnership.” I leaned forward and looked Alonso dead in the eyes, those maple syrup eyes of his. “But I think we both know that you have more to lose.”

Alonso raised a thick black eyebrow. “Or so you believe.”

I leaned back, startled by his smug expression.

“How can I do better?” he asked, playing contrite.

“You could show some teamwork, for starters.  Put in as many hours as I do.”

“Done.”

“You need to develop your listening and problem solving skills. You hear, but you don’t really listen. You act, but you don’t target the root cause of the issue.”

“Understood.”

“You should learn to be more innovative. More spontaneous action, more creative thinking could help lead to interesting new directions that might promote growth for the long-term.”

“You got it.”

I narrowed my eyes, wondering if Alonso was absorbing any of this at all. I knew I could easily find a replacement, if it came to that. But I didn’t want to.

“What about my strengths?” he asked, with the slightest trace of a smile. “I know I have many opportunities for improvement, but I’m sure that there are certain assets you cannot ignore.”

“Well…” I twisted my lips to the side…I really didn’t want his strengths to go to his  head; then again, positive reinforcement might boost morale.

“At the end of the day,” I said, “you get the job done.”

“Oh, I think I do a little more than that,” Alonso said. “I think I get the job done well. I get results, I increase satisfaction. I may go about it a different way than you would, but I think you can’t possibly say my performance is poor.”

I remained silent.

“I believe you’ll agree that my communication skills are very strong. There are never any misunderstandings regarding what I say. I am very clear yet tactful, and maintain close and frequent contact. I’m fairly personable. You could say I’m a relationship builder.”

“I suppose one could say that.” I avoided his eyes.

Alonso stood and grinned, his teeth an arc of gleaming white against his bronze face, and walked over to the kitchen to pour a pot of coffee.

“And I think the most important thing I have going for me,” he said, “is that you love me. You’re crazy about me. You just can’t let me go.”

“Oh, please.” I rolled my eyes, but I couldn’t help smiling.

“So it’s settled then. I’m awesome. Performance review over?”

Alonso returned to the conference table, which had turned back into our kitchen table, with two cups of coffee.

I took a long sip from my I Love Lucy mug. “Fine. I guess you can be my boyfriend for another quarter. But we are revisiting the teamwork and problem solving issues next quarter.”

Alonso took a short slurp from his Simpsons mug, put it down, then suddenly rose and picked me up in his arms. I let out a yelp and kicked my legs, my red pumps flying off my feet.

“What are you doing?!”

“I’ve decided to implement some of your feedback,” Alonso said. “You know, innovating. I just had a brilliant idea I want to present to you.”

He carried me to the bedroom, his mustache tie flapping in my face.

It’s always an adventure – or, rather, a venture –  dating a Silicon Valley man.

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