C'mon admit it. You're starting to wonder what that holiday envelope with contain. Bonuses are a very big deal in the financial world because in a good year they can be several times that of your base salary - well into the six figures and even beyond. Of course, bonuses can also mean turkeys and movie coupons. Unlike the holiday party, which is generally silly and meaningless, the holiday bonus provides a pretty good yardstick for how you or your department are perceived by the higher ups. One boss I had was decent enough to establish a little slush fund throughout the year (we're talking a few grand at most) that would be used for holiday bonuses and other stuff because the company's very rich and quite awful owner wasn't willing to spend a dime more for his workers than he had to. (This owner once described the people in my department as "fungible," which of course made all of us want to work that much harder.) Anyway, Sarah Gilbert reviews many of the possibilities in Blogging Stocks.
The other night I was chatting up my friend Larissa, and mentioned that I'd be waiting for my bonus to decide how much I'd spend on a replacement camera. "The problem is," I said, "I have no idea about scale." I was thinking that, really, a bonus could be anything from 5% to 100% of your salary -- or more! The possibilties are endless.
She laughed, and started telling me stories. She comes from the nonprofit world, where ... well, let's just say that they aren't as generous as the i-bankers. One year she was making $36,000, and somehow she knew her Christmas bonus would be a percentage of her salary. She was realistic, hoping for maybe 5%! That would be nice. She kept waiting for the check to arrive, and one day casually mentioned it to her husband. "Oh, I was wondering what that deposit for $36 was!" he said, laughing.
But that wasn't the worst of it. A friend of hers was working for the Red Cross, and had set herself a monstrous goal for new donors. No one had ever achieved such a goal, but she thought she could do it, and she did! She and a co-worker were called before the board. "We're really, really amazed at your achievement," they said. There were envelopes in their hands. She started thinking about what might be in them. Maybe $100! Or, even $200. So cool."We're going to give you something to thank you for your hard work," the board member said. And handed her the envelope. Inside was a coupon. For a small ice cream cone. She never used it, and a year later, her wallet -- with the coupon inside -- was stolen.