The Day After Bonus Day

Beach Sunrise

The alarm went off at 6am as usual. But I just couldn't get up. The thought of dragging myself into work was too much for me, but I knew I had no choice. If you didn't show up the day after bonus day, everyone knew that you were pissed and that you didn't get paid out.

And I couldn't stand the shame of people knowing. Not the fact that they knew that I'd bagged not much more than a doughnut, but the fact that they would know that I had been shafted once again. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me and all that.

But who do you talk to about stuff like this anyway ? The disappointment, the shame, the kick in the teeth. Your family ? No way! You have your image to keep up. Your friends ? No, you earn significantly more than them (even though you've been stiffed on your bonus), so they would never understand. Your work colleagues ? Never! First of all, the firm says you shouldn't tell anyone, and secondly, you never let your co-workers see that you are vulnerable. Never show weakness. So, you have to take it like a man, and deal with it the best you can.

Listen, I'm not completely deluded; I knew it hadn't been a great year, and, yes, I suppose in a way I was lucky to still have a job (a few of my co-workers, who put in as much hard work and effort as me, have been laid off in the last few months). So when I went into the office to see my Managing Director, I had managed my own expectations. I'd been shafted on my 2011 bonus, and the same MD assured me then that he'd take care of me for 2012. Maybe I was foolish to believe him, but with the consensus expecting - 20% on 2011, I expected to be at least flat on the year. But no, I came in at - 25%, a real kick in the teeth.

I wanted to scramble over the desk and rip his throat out. I wanted to yell that he was a lying bastard and that he had no right to make promises he had no intention of keeping. But, of course, I said and did nothing. I took it on the chin, and walked out trying my best not to let the others see how disappointed I was.

When I got home that evening, I literally cried in frustration. I know it's difficult to feel sorry for someone who makes the kind of money I make, but I'm not after sympathy - I'm just after just justice. I deserved a bigger bonus. I'd worked my socks off last year, and I was lied to by my ultimate boss.

Justice, of course, is not something that we often see in our industry, and it was probably stupid of me to expect it. But as bad as bonus day was for me, I knew that going into work the next day would be a whole lot tougher.

I crawled out of bed and hit a cold shower to freshen up. I'd need to be on top of my game when I eventually got to work.

Anyway, I breezed through the foyer, and passed security with a smile on my face. I nodded to the receptionist as I hit the button and jumped into the lift. I was ready to give an Oscar-like performance; they weren't going to know how down I was feeling. I wasn't going to give them the pleasure.

But I needn't have worried. I got on the trading floor at just gone 8am - late by any measure. But it was practically empty, save for a few expats (who get remunerated in a slightly different way) and two or three Managing Directors and brown-nosers (you know, the guys who will always be there no matter how badly they are treated). Now this made me feel a whole lot better - it wasn't just me; everyone seemed to have got shafted!

Little by little, the traders and support staff straggled in. And none of them appeared to have made any effort to hide the disappointment that they, too, clearly felt. In fact, by the look of them, I'd probably made out better than most. I spent the rest of the day trader-watching - and there sure wasn't much trading going on. A few met up in a group by the water cooler, and could be seen shaking their heads in disbelief. Others disappeared into the conference room throughout the day (to clearly take calls from recruiters). Several left the office early (for interviews at rival frms, no doubt).

I'd never seen it so bad - the rats had obviously decided that enough was enough, and they had determined to leave the shinking ship - that's what a firm gets if the staff make false promises, it wields the job axe indiscriminately and let's the politicians and outraged public take control of the agenda.

The day after bonus day made me realise that bonus days themselves will probably never be the same again.

image: © bumeister1

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