John was sharpening his scythe as I came in—wait, did I say scythe? I meant pencil.
I wondered if he always said 'ah' before he said my name, and I'd somehow failed to notice it. Maybe he thought my name was Ahjessica?
"John," I replied, proving that we were at least each talking to the right person. I started to sit down, whereupon he told me to take a seat, as if I'd been waiting for permission. That BS might work on a junior lawyer, but I'd been at this game too long.
"Already taken, thanks," I said. "How can I help you?" By phrasing it that way, I put him on the back foot, because he'd actually requested my presence, not my help. Pay attention, folks, it's a master class in here.
"You can't," he laughed, which is why he's the boss. "But I wanted to talk to you about Valentina."
I nodded and waited.
He leaned forward. "Look, you and I are similar people. We know how things work, right?"
Forced teaming. Google it. It's what manipulators do to make you feel a connection they can then exploit. I've read The Gift of Fear (which everyone should), so I said, "I don't think we're all that similar, John, and you wanted to talk about Valentina?"
Sidenote: I actually like John, despite the fact he often behaves like a jerk. He's an incredible lawyer who thinks better on his feet than most people do sitting down, and he's taught me everything I know. But I trust him only because I know how he lies.
John smiled. "I like Valentina, she's extremely capable."
He regarded me narrowly for a moment, then relaxed his face. It's his way of miming, I'm not sure I understand you...Wait, now I get it because, damn, I'm smart. He must practice in a mirror. "I know you think she should make partner this year."
"I thought she should have made partner last year." My face betrayed nothing, which I'm long past practicing in a mirror.
"But there is the issue of the board."
My breathing was steady. "In what sense?"
"Well, you know . . ."
"No, I don't."
"The board wouldn't want it to look like we were, you know, reacting to current events."
"Which current events, John? Please speak plainly." (Again, sidenote: When buying time, phrase your delaying tactics as mild criticism—I'm sorry, that didn't make sense/Please restate that, it wasn't clear/Your language is garbled, please remove that scorpion from your mouth. It makes your conversational opponent scramble a little. Side sidenote: If your questioner has a scorpion in her mouth, deal with that first.)
He appeared to be mildly uncomfortable, which is one of his tells. John has never been mildly uncomfortable in his life; he was about to lay on a thick layer of BS.
"Well, the #MeToo thing, the harassment thing..."
I raised my eyebrows, waiting for him to continue.
"The board is concerned if we promote too many women at once, it will look like we're reacting to social pressure."
"Social pressure to promote capable people?"
"Which other women are up for partnership?"
"Janet Manolo. Just Janet."
I took a breath. "And the board thinks making two women partner in one year is too many? Last year you made three men partners and no one wondered about that." I suddenly thought of the RBG quote about enough women on the Supreme Court being nine.
He capped and uncapped a pen. "Well, there was the thing with Jackson..."