You walk into work on a Tuesday morning, half-frozen and irritated by that jerk who honked at you for going 25 in a snow-covered 30mph zone. You shed your outer layers, dispense of the traditional morning greetings, and head to the kitchenette for a nice thawing cup of tea. Suddenly, your boss is at your elbow, mug in hand. Glittery red-and-green reindeer dance around the rim, boring into your soul with cuteness. You brace yourself for awkward chit-chat about the upcoming holidays.
"We need to talk," she says, and you know that bitter face was not entirely due to the crappy coffee.
"You've let yourself go lately," she begins, looking you up and down. "It is the Christmas season, and we all enjoy those sugar cookies, but...you ought to spend a little less time in the break room and a little more on the phone with clients. Take a look at Gary."
You glance at Gary, the picture of professionalism, seated at his clutter-free desk, speaking briskly but cordially to a wide-eyed intern. Your boss gazes warmly at the pair.
"Now, you ought to take a leaf or two from Gary's book. He walks here every day to save the parking spaces for those who need them, scores the biggest accounts in the firm, and I've never seen a spot of lint on that suit. You know what?" she adds brightly, "You should take a look at his blog. He writes all about how he reorganizes the filing cabinet for an hour every single day, and feels guilty when he doesn't. He puts up a daily journal with gorgeous photos of his documents, too, so you can see how he plans out his tasks and never eats up an extra minute on the clock."
Your boss puts down her coffee and leans against the counter while you try to look a bit less frumpy. "A few years ago, you were a lot like Gary," she continues wistfully. "So full of energy...you could write reports for hours without stopping to chat. But then you started waking up later, and lounging on the couch with Desperate Housewives after work when you could have been reading files. But you know what?"
She smiles, and you brace yourself against the light. "I think if you worked hard enough, you could be in top working shape by New Years! All you need is a little motivation. Here." She places a glossy pile of photos in your hands. "These are pictures of the most beautiful presentations given by company employees over the past few years. You'll notice two or three of Gary in there, of course. Hang them up around your desk for inspiration. Tweak your own ugly ones to look more like them. Maybe shave off some inches from those wordy summaries to fit on slimmer slides. I've included a few of your better ones from years past, too, so you can try to reclaim the youthful creativity you once had."
"Oh," she adds, picking up her mug once more. "I know you were really looking forward to the upcoming end-of-year party, but you know what? For your own good, I don't think you should go until your presentations look just like the ones in those photos. Skip lunch if you have to. Dust off that old desk in the basement you never use and set it up in the living room where you can see it. Maybe start a little competition with your friends, like, whoever sheds the most weight from the In Box by Christmas gets the pot or something."
She pats you on the back and you grin weakly. "I have a feeling that, buried under all that burn-out, is an exceptional worker just waiting to come out."
As your boss slinks out of the room, you pick up your lukewarm tea. And you thank your lucky stars that you'll be transferred next month.