Acting On Bonus Day

The London Paper  –  29 Jan 2007

So finally bonus day arrived last week. No-one gets any work done on b’day and there is an air of nervous excitement similar to when you get your exam results at university. However, the difference is that everyone about to receive the news is sitting next to each other in a huge open plan office checking out their colleagues’ every facial expression.

B’day is generally about pretending to those around you that you are feeling the exact opposite of your actual emotions. I would recommend to any young brokers out there that they should spend a few days prior to the big day honing up their acting skills. Young Cityboys and Citygirls need to learn to exude the four vital emotions necessary on B’day: Calmness, righteous fury, nonchalance & understated glee.

First of all, in the morning of b’day all brokers must strive to appear as cool as the Fonz on Valium despite the fact that they know another crap bonus means that their wife can forget about little Tarquin going to Harrow. If you’re lucky enough to have a guaranteed bonus, as I have had 6 out of the last 10 years, then make sure you don’t seem too relaxed or everyone will know (and that can cause resentment).

When its your turn to trundle off into the little room and receive ‘the letter’ from the boss, no matter what figure he gives you, you must act as if he’s just recommended that you vigorously rub a cheese grater on your genitals for the next four hours. Any indication that the bonus is ‘satisfactory’ will be interpreted to mean that you’re actually delirious with joy, which would be duly noted ensuring that next year’s bonus is not increased dramatically.

As you leave the room all eyes will be following you on the ‘walk of shame’ back to your desk. In truth, the correct approach here is to reveal absolutely no emotion. Showing anger will just suggest you’ve been shafted to everyone. This could result in snide comments and eventually reach the ears of other banks / head-hunters which may suggest you’re not the ‘big swinging dick’ you pretend to be. However, joy merely annoys those around you and contradicts the act you gave your boss.

Finally, in the pub after work on b’day an understated act of mild smugness is the correct approach. I tend to buy a few bottles of champers whilst at the same time acting like someone pretending to be annoyed. This would test the skills of Lawrence Olivier but is now second nature after 10 years of this horrific nonsense.

This year my bonus was … ‘acceptable’. Enough to buy a reasonably large house in South of France outright but not enough to do the same for a one bedroom flat in Holland Park. My only concern now is telling her indoors. She’s read one too many articles about the 4000+ Cityboy/girls receiving bonuses over a million this year and may think I’ve underperformed. Conning colleagues is one thing, but pulling the wool over her eyes would take acting skills that would challenge De Niro.


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