Mr Banker

How to get that bonus you so richly deserve. It starts with conditioning…

They must believe

Only once in my 30-year career have I ever been given a bonus that genuinely reflected my actual performance. It was the bitter disappointment of that experience that prompted my early adoption of the techniques of misinformation and misdirection that we now know as “upwards management”.

Obviously the most direct route to a large bonus is to perform outstanding work for someone who will recognise your contribution. Unfortunately this is only viable for those of us who both actually make a contribution (which rules out most of my colleagues) and work for someone capable of recognising performance (which rules out most of the rest of us).

Happily, there is an alternative, and one that requires far less work than actually doing something.

The answer is to create the impression that one is making a valuable contribution.

Now, there are many in the corporate world who equate that notion with agreeing with your superior — preferably before he or she has finished the sentence. Of course, that plays a part, but there is more to it than that.

Let’s start at first principles. We know that we can convince senior executives that something is true if they believe that others believe it to be true. Applying this to the situation at hand, we must therefore lead our superiors to believe that others value us.

Curiously, the way to do this is through the bonus process itself, by timing all major purchases — overseas holidays, new motor vehicles, house extensions — to occur shortly after bonuses are announced.

Colleagues will assume they are funded by a large bonus. If asked directly, remind the inquirer of the bank’s confidentiality requirement … and nod knowingly, thereby eliminating the need for a direct lie. Colleagues will therefore assume that someone in a position of authority believes you deserve a large bonus.

If you find yourself in the unusual position of working for the same person two years in a row, that is even better. An even more convincing proof to a senior executive that something is true is for him or her to believe that they believe it to be true, and so if they paid you a bonus last year that will be proof beyond challenge that you are a high-performing champion.

Those unfamiliar with large corporates may pause here and challenge whether colleagues would believe that large bonuses would be paid to those who don’t actually do anything. Those more familiar with large corporates will understand that it would actually be more remarkable if bonuses were only paid to those who deserve them.



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