As Kathy sat across the desk radiating hostility, Joe sought to hide his uneasiness. He tried small talk to soften her up; she responded with one-word replies. He needed to be straight with her about her shortcomings, but he was having trouble doing so.
JOE: Well, it’s that time again. I hate these things, don’t you?
KATHY: I guess so . . .
JOE: Yes, well . . . How are you doing on that new program?
KATHY: Fine, really. We’re trying to get some bugs out of the interface but we’re still ahead of schedule.
JOE: Good, good . . . Well, I have this performance review form I have to fill out. I’m supposed to rate you on a bunch of different things. I think you’re doing fine, so I just gave you the middle ratings on everything.
KATHY: Middle? Is that good?
JOE: Sure. I mean, we both know you’re still learning this job. I’m sure you’ll get better as you go along.
KATHY: If you’re talking about the project I worked on with Bill, we’re going over it line by line so I can see what went wrong.
JOE: Good, good. Bill knows his stuff. Well, then, I guess that’s it! That wasn’t so bad. You didn’t have any questions, did you?
KATHY: No, I guess not . . .
JOE: Well, great. Just sign this form and we can forget about this until next year.
But Kathy wasn’t about to let Joe forget a thing. Within a week, she’d slapped him with a complaint that began as gender discrimination but wound up including a dozen other accusations.
Joe was tearing out his thinning hair when he saw a book we publish on my bookshelf. It’s called The Manager’s Guide to Effective, Legal Performance Reviews. Joe grabbed for it as if it were a life-preserver. Which it actually is. Did you know …