The Outsider: Bonus time and the importance of not blinking

eFC logo

Don't underplay your achievements, says ex-banker and author David Charters. And don't high five your boss when your bonus is less derisory than anticipated.

It's that time of year again. Team leaders, senior managing directors and members of the Management Committee are huddling together in glass-walled meeting rooms at the edge of the trading floor, poring over lists of names and numbers. From time to time they pause and look up, maybe glancing in your direction as you look busy and productive at your workstation, phone to your ear, wondering what The Number will be this year. Yes, it's bonus time.

The months immediately prior to the annual bonus round are possibly the most critical in the year. Cynics say that a dollar earned now is worth four or five earned in the dim and distant past of six months ago. Dollars earned for the firm need to be fresh in the memory of the decision makers carving up the bonus pool.

Equally important are dollars yet to come. Not in the vague future, but contracted for the first few months of the coming year. As your boss looks into an uncertain period ahead when the only fixture is the overhead, you want to position yourself as part of his comfort blanket, someone he definitely does not want to lose. The bonus might in theory be paid for the past year's achievements, but in practice it's the future that counts more.

Don't hide your light. There's no point complaining when it is too late and the numbers have been done. If you have a list of achievements and prospects that management needs to know about, don't be modest - tell people now and try to manage their expectations of your expectations.

And when the great day comes, and your boss calls you in and tells you the magic number, don't break into a broad grin or leap up and high five him, and don't cry either. Whatever you may be feeling on the inside, the appropriate reaction is a poker-faced and dignified "I see." If he looks searchingly for a reaction, and presses you, stay calm and pretend you're in charge. A slight frown normally plays well, and saying something like "I need to reflect on this."

Most important of all, don't blink, even if he has overpaid you hugely and the Hallelujah Chorus is playing in your head.

It may all be a game, but if you're out there on the pitch, you might as well win.

David Charters' latest book, Trust me, I'm a banker, is published by Elliott and Thompson, price 9.99.

Popular job sectors


Search jobs

Search articles