Bonus season is tricky. If you get shorted, you can’t complain to your friends or family outside of the industry — to them you’re still getting a huge load of cash. And to your bosses, you don’t want to appear ungrateful, irrational, or weak.
Fortunately, former investment banker Daniel Davies wrote a how-to guide in the FT on “the etiquette of accepting an objectively huge sum of money when it is not as much as you wanted.”
Here are his pointers:
1. Language is key.
Davies was once told that the only words you should use are “That’s,” “Not,” and “Enough.”
Nobody needs a soliloquy about your talents and expertise, just be assertive about your own labour market value.
2. Be ready with a counteroffer.
“If you did not get as much as you think you are worth it means your boss does not think your market value is as high as you do,” Davies wrote.
The best bonus negotiators are at it months in advance, threatening to leave in order to gauge their worth to the company. If you haven’t done that, you should still come prepared with a solid estimate of what the number will be.
3. Don’t tell your colleagues ANYTHING.
It’s not cool to brag about higher-than-expected compensation. At the same time, if negotiations go worse than you’d hoped, and you don’t have a better offer from another bank, you don’t want to let that on either.
Regardless of the meeting’s results, Davies says, there’s only one thing to do afterward: “order the biggest bottle of champagne you can afford and sit there all afternoon, offering a glass to colleagues as they drift in. And if anyone asks you how you did, smile enigmatically and say ‘more than I deserved, but less than I wanted.'”
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