A disappointing bonus should be a call to action

HOW did you feel when Santa failed to come for the first time? Of course, you know that Father Christmas is a fiction; you are even warned that he isn’t coming this year. But the reality that he has gone forever only really hits home when you wake up on Christmas morning and find there’s nothing at the end of your bed.

Getting a lousy bonus can arouse similar feelings. The good news is that while we can’t bring the reindeer back down the chimney, there’s plenty we can do to get over an unexpectedly low bonus. Here is a plan for how to cope with a disappointing compensation round.

As a start, get the facts. Seventy-five per cent of us think we’re above average (and 90 cent of us think we’re above average drivers). Find out how your performance actually compared with your peer group. Maybe you were fairly rewarded for what you delivered.

Sort your personal finances. Money worries swiftly infect every part of our life. If you’d already spent assuming a bigger windfall, act now to cut your outgoings, say, with more modest Christmas presents or a staycation in Cornwall instead of a fancy fortnight in the Bahamas. Learn from Ireland’s mistakes.

Check the environment. If the reason for your low bonus is the performance of the whole organisation or department, then assess the chances that this will be any different next year. If the leadership has a credible plan to turn things around, then stick with them. If they’re relying on a change in the markets or other circumstances beyond their control, it may be time to look elsewhere.

Find out what will secure a bigger bonus next year. Ask your manager for objective measures that you will need to deliver against and subjective advice on how to manage your reputation along the way. If their answers aren’t convincing, then seek out people who’ve done well and uncover what they did.

Get going. The journey to a stellar bonus next year has already started. Focus on three things: the skills you need to acquire to raise your underlying contribution, the inputs that are most likely to affect the outcome, and the way you conduct yourself.

Is this year’s bonus a blip or a trend? You decide.
Octavius Black is CEO, of The Mind Gym www.themindgym.com