James, let me begin by saying what a joy it’s been to work with you this year. Your skills with spreadsheet software and your understanding of marketing principles are matched only by your quick wit and knowledge of keg prices at dozens of liquor stores near Georgetown University. Your hard work and unwavering commitment to excellence have significantly contributed to the financial solvency of the firm. To cite one example, the carpooling initiative—launched after my encounter with an overzealous police officer on the beltway—would still be in the exploratory stage had it not been for your foresight, focus, and ExpressPass. Thank you for all that you have contributed to this firm over the past 12 months.

To provide structure to this conversation, I have listed below two of your “signature strengths” and two areas where I would like to see improvement. Should you have any questions or concerns, I would ask that you save them for a later date, as I’m still recovering from a nasty verbal spar with the missus and will be retiring to a skin bar for the lunch hour. Also, I hope you’ll excuse the second half of this memo being written on a cocktail napkin.



James, success in the advertising industry requires the ability to quickly recover from frequent setbacks and disappointments. You displayed a great deal of resilience this year, not only in your competent handling of the McGregor account but also in your patience during my brief yet violent encounter with acid at last fall’s corporate retreat. I’ll be the first to admit that you were on the receiving end of more than your share of verbal abuse and character defamation last year, but you endured it all with poise and grace. You are an asset to this firm, James, and the fistfuls of ibuprofen I found on my desk every Monday and the occasional Thursday morning following ladies’ night at Fox Pub are a lasting testament to your professionalism.


James, you have consistently exhibited the kind of collaborative spirit that has helped this firm maintain its competitive advantage in an increasingly combative market. Last November, you came to pick me and the Four Horsemen of Finance up at Dirty Phil’s at 3 in the morning. Though I don’t recall this event or the oft-celebrated detour to White Castle on the way home, it’s a perfect example of what I’m talking about: teamwork. What’s more, I’m told you worked tirelessly the next day to complete our budget proposal, while I lay beneath my desk, sipping berry Propel and avoiding direct sunlight. Had I been more conscious of my whereabouts during the board meeting, I’m confident your proposal would have impressed the directors as well. Going forward, I encourage you to continue focusing on what you can do to make this team successful, and to do so with the assurance that at least one of your peers will remember your heroics.

Areas for Continued Improvement


In business, as in life, the ability to take calculated risks is often all that separates the successful from the also-rans. A man gets only so many chesty, uninhibited opportunities in his life, and whenever one comes your way it’s crucial that you sack up and go for it. Specifically, I’m referencing the incident at the Christmas Party when Stacy from accounting drunkenly fell into your lap. Instead of making a move, you helped her to a glass of water and called her a cab. James, in doing this, not only did you demonstrate a lack of initiative but you contributed negatively to the overall success of the party by removing a primary source of entertainment. In the future, I would like to see you actively seek ways to get outside your comfort zone. One way to do this would be to take Lauren from quality assurance up on her offer to “assure you of her quality” in the service elevator. I encourage you to come up with some developmental activities of your own as well.


James, in advertising, one must critically analyze all courses of action before making a decision. Often, upon closer inspection, one will find that the obvious choice is not necessarily the best one. When making crucial decisions, like whether or not to report your boss’s use of company monies to finance Tanqueray Tuesdays and Wild Turkey Wednesdays, it’s important to consider all potential outcomes and alternative solutions. For example, had you not been so rash in your use of words like “embezzlement” and “gross misconduct,” you might have found yourself handsomely rewarded for your discretion. Instead, you uncritically followed your heart and are now dealing with many unforeseen consequences (e.g., stink eyes, a missing three-hole punch, exclusion from Mad Men marathons, etc.). James, I encourage you to use better judgment in the future, and—should I receive a favorable ruling from HR regarding Stacy’s allegations that I sexually harassed her—I look forward to partnering with you on your continued professional and personal development.