It’s the moment that every financial market professional dreads - when your boss tells you that you're getting a big fat zero.
It’s a bit like when the matador sticks the short knife into the neck muscles of the exhausted bull to finish the poor creature off.
You’ve already endured months of warnings and expectation management leading up to the big day itself (management has become used to delivering bad news and managing our expectations downwards in recent years).
So, you're then solemnly trooped into a room with you manager, and you get handed an envelope. Inside you know there's a slip which will either make or break your year. Your heart pounds as you eagerly open it, only to find that the note inside informs that you will not be receiving a bonus that year.
Sometimes the slip will say something nice, like 'this does not in any way reflect upon your performance', but at other times it may rub salt into the wound, and create a nice feeling of paranoia by pointing out that the firm is currently reviewing its cost base and that there may be redundancies; in other words, be happy you're still in a job.
At this point, once the enormity of the 'zero' has sunk in, your manager may say something nice like, ‘So are you going skiing this Christmas, we are…’ (He obviously got a bonus). Or you might be told that everyone has got a doughnut this year, so don’t feel singled out. Either way it’s a gut wrenching moment, since human nature dictates that one holds out hope against hope - even if the warnings are dire, and the financial reality is obvious.
The worst time, of course, is if you get a zero and you know you're the only one. It does happen, and in our industry it really is a massive slap in the face. And none of this is pleasant in a culture where financial reward is treated as indicative of status, professional pride and psychological security.