“So, as I said earlier, Simon, I have no worries at all about the quality of your work. It’s excellent.” Patricia’s birdlike features scanned the notes in front of her. “I wouldn’t worry about your productivity either.” Her manufactured smile slipped a little. “Although, at eighty-five percent, it’s lower than the one hundred and forty percent we’re aiming for, I would much rather you took the time to do the work right first time than rush through it and begin making mistakes. Anyway, there’s time enough to increase your output before your next review in four weeks time. I’m confident we’ll see an improvement by then. Thanks for your efforts over the last month, Simon, and all I can say is, continue your hard work.”
Patricia opened the door of the small, eight feet by eight feet, interview room with its single round pine-effect table and two deceptively uncomforta-ble chairs and afforded Simon the courtesy of leaving first. Her appropriate, thin, polite smile reappeared on her lips as Simon passed her and made his way back to his workstation to clear his desk for the night. As he walked to his chair across the expansive open-plan office, a slight feeling of unease discoloured his thoughts.
“Patricia was right,” he mused. “I can’t disagree with her evaluation of my performance. I am accurate, methodical, thorough. I take my time to get things right and that inevitably affects the amount of work I do. They say quality is more important than quantity, but even so, I must try and increase my productivity before that next review. I’m cheating myself, the team and the Company if I don’t do it.” Simon laughed to himself. “Ha! And there was I thinking I was doing well!”
“Are you ready, Simon?” A woman’s voice, confident and strong, snatched Simon from his thoughts.
“What! Oh, yes, sorry Michelle. Just give me a minute. You go on and I’ll meet you at the car.”
Simon efficiently set about packing away his blank statements and receipts, his first and second class envelopes and his ‘Welcome to your new account’ letters, placing them carefully in neat piles in the top drawer of his desk. Next, he picked up a thick wad of paper, tore off the top sheet, and replaced it, precisely, next to his computer keyboard. “Another day over,” he pondered. A slight frown lined his brow as he scanned the rows of days in front of him. “Four weeks, eh. That’ll take us to December. Just before Christmas in fact.”
He must have said this aloud, for Donald, the Department Manager, diverted his gaze from the sheet of figures he was studying. “What was that, Simon?”
“Oh, hello Donald. Just working out the date of my next Performance Review. I’m determined to meet that 140% productivity target!”
“You needn’t worry too much about that, Simon. We’re more than satisfied with your contribution and, although we’re looking to streamline the New Accounts team, we always consider the quality of a person’s work to be the most important factor when deciding who we should hang on to.” Donald glanced down at the sheet he was holding, then back at Simon. “However, if you do feel that you need our help to improve in certain areas, then please just ask.”
“Thanks, I will.” Simon smiled, but as he turned to sign the Attendance Log for the final time that week, the frown returned to crease his brow darker and deeper.
Michelle was drawing up to the entrance of the modern, glass-fronted, three-storey building as it spat Simon from the revolving door. Slowly and deliberately he climbed into the front passenger seat of the silver saloon and heard the soft purring of the engine turn to a tigerish growl as Michelle pulled away to begin the short journey to Simon’s home.
“You’re unusually quiet,” said Michelle. “What’s wrong?”
“I’ve just had my review and although everyone seems pleased with my work, they mentioned that my productivity could be higher. You always meet the target and even beat it! How do you do it?”
“Good clean living and lots of early nights!” Michelle laughed heartily, then continued. “I may do the work quickly, but have you seen my percentage error rate. If my wage rise was as high, we’d now be sitting in a Mercedes. Besides, don’t believe everything you read. My work monitoring form would not bear too close scrutiny. Five extra accounts opened here, a couple of extra closures there. They make all the difference!”
“Michelle! How could you?” said Simon in mock admonition, and contorted his face into a look of comic disdain which produced another raucous laugh.
“Oh, I’m past caring and, anyway, if the rumours of staff reductions are true, I’ve a feeling I may soon be on my way out. You, on the other hand, Simon, are far more valuable to the Company than you realise and I happen to know that a small token of their appreciation for all your good work may be on its way to you as we speak.”
“What? How do you know? What is it?” Simon shifted in his seat.